About the Lessons
Since 2007, two six week sessions are held at Creekside Equestrian Center in the late spring and in the fall. A four week summer session is held at Glen Meadow Farm on Glen Road. While the indoor arena at Creekside allows for continuous lessons uninterrupted by the weather, the riders enjoy the outdoor summer sessions where they can ride in the fields and trails as well as the outdoor ring. In the four years since the reintroduction of a summer program, the weather has cooperated. Other than a sudden downpour during which we had to walk quickly back to the stable.
Lessons are once a week up to an hour in length according to the ability of the rider. Depending upon ability, each rider has the help of a leader for the horse and one or two side runners on either side of them to help their stability and balance on the horse or to focus their attention on the instructors direction. Progress may take a bit longer in some cases but the end result is the same. Also included are balance and stretching exercises as well as games. Various games, as well as programmed rides such as a musical ride or a dressage test keep lessons stimulating and fun for the riders and volunteers alike. Lessons are intended to be interesting, athletic, educational, recreational and above all, enjoyable.
Another area, and the origin of the program in 1986, is hippo therapy, or physiotherapy using the horse as a tool. Children with cerebral palsy up to teenage years can actually improve mobility because of the three-dimensional movement and the warmth of the horse. The movement of the horse, which is similar to our own, relaxes the the muscles, this decreasing extra tone; once the muscles have relaxed they can become strengthened, again by the movement and the warmth of the horse. This also helps people recovering from a brain or physical injury as the movement of the horse helps to stimulate muscles in relearning motor skills.
Riders with a developmental delay or Down syndrome can improve attention span and motor skills through repetitive routine as well as learning a new skill, ie. horseback riding. Riders dependant on a wheel chair or crutches find being on a horse at eye level or above their peers very freeing. Those with autistic tendencies sometimes interact better to the unconditional nature of animals. In all cases, riders enjoy the riding experience as learning a new skill, as recreation, improving motor control, extending attention span. Most importantly, riders experience development of independence and self esteem. This may be an activity in which no one else in their family or group of friends participates, or else a way to meet new people and make new friends by having this skill in common.