Saturday, 2 April 2016

Horsing Around

When Felix turned 3, we enrolled him in Riding for the disabled. We were really lucky that there wasn't a waiting list, like there is in other places, so he was able to start straight away. He was a little bit apprehensive when he first started. Some days he wasn't too keen to get up onto the horse, and other days he liked to mess around and pretend to fall off because he knew someone would catch him. He started with one person leading the horse, a couple of side walkers, and sometimes a fourth person to hold onto him so he didn't fall.

Putting on his reins.
RDA isn't just about riding a horse from point A to point B. The instructors play games with the riders to help with their balance and encourage them to use their legs and core to stay on the horse. Felix, as we all know, is a bit cheeky sometimes, and will do things to get attention or to make people laugh at him. At RDA, I am always amazed at how they manage to get Felix to do the right thing, even if he starts off being silly. An example is when Felix's horse is led to a stand with a toy on it. The idea is that Felix picks up the toy and holds it until the horse has walked to a second point, where there is a bucket. Felix then has to throw the toy in the bucket. Initially, Felix picked up the toy and threw it straight away (and then laughed maniacally!!), which defeated the purpose of the game. The response of his instructor? She didn't say "No, that's naughty, don't do that!" Instead, they walked Felix's horse over to the bucket and said, "Oh no! Now you have nothing to throw into the bucket! Next time you need to hold the toy." He only did it a couple of times before he realised that it wasn't much fun having nothing to throw into the bucket. Now, he hangs on tightly to his toy until he reaches the bucket and then throws it. They are so good at what they do!!

We have really noticed how much stronger Felix has become through his legs and core, since doing horse riding. When he is asked to let go of the reins and put his hands up in the air (as the horse is walking), he is able to balance beautifully, with a nice, straight back. He doesn't need support on the horse anymore and his side walker is only there just in case anything unexpected happens. He likes it when the horse trots. It always makes him giggle and he looks a bit like one of those bobble-head figures. His hypotonia means that his neck isn't as strong as other kids his age, so he doesn't have quite as much control. The trotting helps strengthen those muscles, but it also makes him laugh his head off. Today, his horse decided she didn't want to trot....she was having a lazy day. Maybe next week!

I'm so thankful that Felix has the opportunity to do different therapies which, although helping him with his development, are also a lot of fun and don't seem like hard work. The great thing about horse riding is that, in addition to be physically good for him, it is increasing his confidence, teaching him a really cool skill, and is a great place for social interaction. Everyone at RDA has noticed how much Felix is talking while he's riding. They encourage him in his speech and also use signs he's familiar with to make it a really positive experience for him. If you know any kids you think might benefit from this type of therapy, make sure you mention it to them. It's so beneficial. Felix just loves it!

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