Adaptive Horse Riding

The sound of beating hooves across the ground defined a new sense of freedom! My experience with adaptive horse riding was more than just therapy - it was liberating. Physically it was as close to walking as I have ever come!

I personally found several benefits in horse riding. After a one hour session, I felt better physically, mentally and socially. For the first time I felt like I was ‘mirroring’ walking. The gait of the horse was a gentle, repetitive movement. The horse moved with my body in a way that is very similar to the human gait. After a couple of rides, I achieved greater flexibility and balance. After one ride, I was hooked and a true passion was born.

My adaptive riding experience was unique. I was placed in my customized western saddle (that my husband had modified using a hand-me-down saddle and a retired wheelchair back). My support team was my family and we gathered at a local stable. Rather than simply walking a horse across an arena, my family and friends created an opportunity for me to experience an authentic trail ride. During my time at the farm, I also learned the basics of caring for a horse, such as saddling and bridling, mounting and dismounting, and safety precautions.

My support team encouraged me to develop a relationship with the horse organically by doing real ranch work. It was my responsibility to take care of my tack (saddle, saddle pad, etc.) just like any other horse rider would be required to do.

Getting in saddle can be a challenge when you are paralyzed. Here is a photo series of how my husband lifted me.

On many days, I just enjoy grooming the horses. I have also discovered that I greatly enjoy sharing my new found passion with others. The only negative in adaptive riding is now I want my very own horse! Now my husband knows, "Horse girls are easy to love but hard to afford!" It is all well worth it!

Here are some helpful tips for you to create your very own Adaptive Riding experience:

  • Complete an Internet search using "Therapeutic Riding" followed by your city and state. There may be a certified PATH Instructor within driving distance.
  • Visit the official PATH (The Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) International website: http://www.pathintl.org/
  • Find friends and family that will support your efforts of getting in the saddle.
  • Visit a local rescue to groom, volunteer, or just get acquainted with horses. This is how my horse journey began.

Leslie

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