Therapeutic Riding

It’s Horse Day! Known as Thursday by the general population, Horse Day is probably my girls’ favorite day of the week. The girls started therapeutic horseback riding (THR) in June, 2012. They ride most of the year, totaling about nine months with breaks during the extreme heat and winter season. THR was something that started as a “hey, that’s a cool concept” feel when I initially heard of it, to a feeling that maybe it could actually benefit my girls. As anyone who has sat through an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting will attest, they can be less than inspirational and sometimes downright depressing; because the point of an IEP is to address areas in school where the student has major deficits, it’s hard to see a silver lining. Last year we heard “she needs a lot of prompts to keep her head up” a lot. Granted, this was not the first IEP meeting to address stamina – but it was the one that prompted me to look into options to increase endurance.

Nicky (photo used with permission from NTRC)
Nicky (photo used with permission from NTRC)

When I called Northland Therapeutic Riding Center (NTRC), I was nervous and skeptical. How exactly is this going to benefit my children? But from the first assessment (which included some time on a horse), I could see that THR was an instant spirit lift for my girls. Their eyes lit up like the mayor’s Christmas tree! There is something truly magical about seeing your child sitting with perfect posture, reins in hand, full composure on a thousand pound quarter horse. The literature says that THR can improve a wide range of skills, from balance and coordination to problem solving and concentration. While we don’t have a formal “before THR” and “during THR” assessment of these skills, I have definitely seen major developments for my girls. They have built relationships with their horse handlers, their instructor, and their horses. They have to use every muscle in their body to maintain balance, so in return, all muscles are getting stronger and their stamina continues to improve.  They also incorporate voice projection and articulation, following directions, listening skills, and respect of service animals during their riding sessions.

TC (photo used with permission from NTRC)
TC (photo used with permission from NTRC)

NTRC  has provided therapeutic riding and hippotherapy since 2000. Riders with special needs (including – but not limited to – Down syndrome, Autism, Traumatic Brain Injury, Spina Bifida, and cognitive, social, and behavioral challenges) benefit from the horse in large part because of the similar movements of the pelvis (up and down, side to side, and back and forth). NTRC currently provides services to nearly eighty riders ranging in age from two to eighty years old. The dedicated staff and volunteers work tirelessly to provide an amazing program. Next week, on October 24th, NTRC is hosting their first dinner and auction at an Evening of Hope, a benefit for NTRC.

If you think your child might benefit from THR or would like to volunteer (must be at least 15 years old), I encourage you to give them a call. The staff and volunteers are passionate about the service they provide and everything on the thirty-four acre ranch reflects positively on how much they believe in the program.

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I grew up in Liberty, just a few blocks off from the square. After a brief stint at Iowa State University, hubby and I returned to the Northland in KC to welcome our twin girls into the world. Soon after we were parents to 2, we were parents to 3. And after a bit of a hiatus, we returned to infant hood with the birth of our 4th child. As our twin daughters have special needs, I changed my course of study and earned an A.S. in Sign Language Interpreting. We used American Sign Language as our primary communication for the first 2 years of their lives. Over the last 9 years since becoming a mom, I've learned (and am still learning) about childhood advocacy, living on budget, baby wearing, cloth diapering, figuring out how to plan/shop/execute yummy/kid-friendly/healthy meals. While we've been life long KC residents, we are continuously in awe of what this city has to offer.