Benefits of Grooming and Groundwork

HORSES & HANDS -- BUILDING SENSORY CONNECTIONS

Grooming  and groundwork are getting to know a horse face to face; this helps  develop cognitive aspects of the student.  The student needs to focus on  body position while not only maneuvering around the horse to brush it,  but also while lifting the saddle and other equipment.  The parts of the  horse, how to hold certain brushes, and the amount of pressure to use  while interacting with the horse are all things that need to be learned.

Horse grooming is the care given to a horse where the horse’s physical

appearance and health are enhanced.  Learning to care for a horse helps

us learn to care for ourselves.

Proper grooming can promote healthy emotional bonding and trust

between the horse and student.  Grooming improves sensory awareness,

spatial awareness, and basic motor skills.

Groundwork with horses consists of exercises that you do with your 

horse while you stay on the ground and lead the horse.  This activity

teaches the horse manners.  Manners are something everyone needs to

acquire, horses included.  (Even walking next to the horse can increase

control and stability of the body.)

Mental  health is also an important facet.  Horses are the perfect mirror, as  they are very emotional beings.  Some health professionals say that  horses can reflect our emotions - to bring relief from addiction,  stress, and pain.

Some students start off being very nervous, so a  smaller horse may be preferred.  If you can work with an animal like  this and overcome fear, that isn’t a bad starting point.

One  reason that equine-assisted activities work so well is that everyone  reacts to horses in one way or another.  People either love or fear  horses; those are two big emotions that immediately reflect what most of  life’s issues revolve around.

Equine-assisted activities can be a tremendous benefit to anyone with or without special needs.

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Denise Strasser Niece of student

Ever since Mark broke his arm a couple  years ago, he has pampered it.  It's been a challenge to get him to do  his therapeutic exercises.  Mark’s love of horses has helped us in ways  we didn't expect.  When he grooms he has to use both arms.  The brushing  motion is the gentle exercise he needs to strengthen his arm.  Since he  started grooming last year we have seen him use his arm more for his  daily activities. Grooming has strengthened his arm - giving him an  overall better quality of life. 

Mark has a history of losing  focus doing his daily tasks. When he is grooming he is close to the  horse and he is 100% engaged with the task.  This helps him to learn how  to maintain focus.

We also work on memory exercises.  After we  show him the different brushes and talk about their uses we then repeat  this again every time he uses the brushes. Then we have him try to tell  us which brush is for which task. This memory exercise helps him outside  of HART too. His caregiver can ask him specific questions about events  that happened during the day and he is able to reply better than he did  before we started working with the horses.

Emotionally and physically the whole experience with HART has benefited him in more ways than I could ever write down. 

I'd  be happy to have you join us for a lesson so you can see how it works  for him.  He'd like to tell you all the things he's learned how to do. 

Ashley Detterbeck DPT, ATP, SMS Physical Therapist

Many people associate therapeutic riding as just the riding component of the lesson. 

While  research has shown improvement in posture and control of the individual  due to the pelvic movements of the horse, grooming and groundwork is  quickly overlooked.   

Grooming and groundwork activities allow  for continued work of not only mental interaction, but physical gains.   By allowing the individual to participate in these activities we are  further challenging the core musculature, balance sensory systems, and  confidence. 

Grooming and groundwork allow the student to  participate in these activities on his/her own feet which in turn allows  for carry over of the learned pelvic movements that the horse provides  during riding.   Carryover then allows that student to adapt those  movements, whether it be dynamic standing balance with reaching and  change of directions as in grooming, or learning to navigate uneven  terrain and soft surfaces during groundwork.  These are all aspects of  daily living that are significantly challenging to a person with  disabilities. 

Promotion of these further advanced skills is  pertinent in progressing the student’s balance, ambulation skills, and  confidence for peer to peer interaction, community and household  ambulation.