Therapeutic horsemanship uses activities with horses to positively contribute to the cognitive, physical, emotional and social well-being of individuals with disabilities. There are four therapeutic riding classifications — education, sport, recreation and leisure, and therapy.
Currently Cloud Dancers practices in three of these areas with plans to incorporate therapy by licensed health professionals, such as Occupational and Physical therapists at a later date. Currently our PATH certified instructors design and implement activities with horses that address cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and physical goals, as well as teach skills in riding, vaulting or ground work. Personal pride and improved self-esteem come from accomplishing new tasks and learning new skills. The pure enjoyment of the horse-human bond brings joy and pleasure along with new friendships and relationships.
Individuals with disabilities who may respond positively to therapeutic riding include people with Down Syndrome, Autism, MS, paralysis, amputations, ADD, ADHD, developmental delays, Cerebral Palsy, brain injuries, strokes, drug or alcohol abuse, hearing and vision impairments, depression, and other disabilities.
Cloud Dancers adapts safe and fun riding techniques to individuals with a variety of disabilities. Certified instructors develop goals, with input of riders and/or parents/guardians that meet needs for developing core and muscle strength, increasing physical flexibility and balance, enhancing communication and listening skills, improving fine motor skills, and more.
Fun activities to build fine motor skills might include drawing a mystery card from a basket, or putting mail in a mailbox, or retrieving colorful vegetables from the fence and putting them in our pot of vegetable soup, or tossing a small ball into a basketball hoop, all on the back of a horse. Games with colors and shapes may enhance communication and listening skills. Playing red light-green light on horseback focuses on following directions.
Flexibility, balance and core strength may show improvement from the rhythmic gait of a horse being similar to the human gait. Guiding a horse requires good posture with heads up and eyes in the direction the rider wants to go. During lessons riders also learn about horse care and anatomy, grooming and tacking. Both group and private riding lessons are offered.
Vaulting is an equestrian discipline of gymnastic movement on the back of a moving horse. Therapeutically, vaulting lends itself well to participants with a broad range of abilities and goals—from simply feeling the movement of the horse to more advanced gymnastic exercises. Unlike other mounted disciplines, vaulting allows the rider to move freely into different positions on the horse while it is kept on a circle with a lead-line by a person on the ground.
Vaulting lays a great foundation for all kinds of riding because it encourages balance and core strength. Vaulting also promotes focus and teamwork as it most often requires participants to work together for success. At Cloud Dancers, we offer both group and private lessons in vaulting.
Both Therapeutic Riding and Vaulting often include unmounted activities.