I've started working with a girl with cerebral palsy,we've been using a bareback pad and sidewalkers with her,but i'd like to find a saddle with more support...does anyone know about Wintec Saddles? or does anyone have any other brands that may provide good support?....the whole reason her mom has us working with her is to give her "horse experience"
as far as her mobility,she does use crutches to help her get around,but other than that she seems pretty independent..Her parents basically want her to do this to get "horse experience", she's not looking to go out and compete the next day
Here is something you have not mentioned yet....the HORSE. What does the horse move like? To be theraputic it does matter. With high tone you need a slow/easy horse to dicourage the tone. With a low tone ("floppy") type a quicker/bouncier mover will help increase tone.
she has only ridden twice so far, but she seems like she leans toward being tight and stiff..and as for the horse, he's a wonderful, amazingly, unflappable gelding named Brody...he's very slow and is a great confidence builder horse
The horse sounds appropriate then. For the stiff/tight person you want a nice slow/quiet horse. That will help them relax better. But for the stiff folks...bareback pads are really the best way to go initially. Some do come with stirrups on them. With BB pads the warmth from the horse comes through the pad and helps them stretch the stiff legs out better. With regular saddles though....if support is the goal then I would go with a dressage or Western saddle. Close contact saddles don't offer much support and jumping saddles will bring you more forward (for 2 point) and you are trying to get her to sit back and relax at this point.
also, my friends and i are mainly trying to work on getting her "horse experience" and helping with strengthing in the process,however i do know there may come a time where her mom will want her to go to an actual thereapeutic riding center....does anyone know if there is a website that lists the US thereapeutic riding centers or something?
I would not teach rider with hypertonic CP, which sounds like what you are describing, without written clearance from their pediatrician. Not sure if you have this already or not but I'd protect myself and the child.
Also, while riding can be very beneficial to many people with CP, for some children with CP, some mounted activities are contraindicated.
Camohn makes a good point about gait. And there are lots of other things to consider when working with a child with hypertonia. For one thing, s/he should not typically be mounted on a wide horse. And, as far as a saddle that offers support (although whoever said bareback pads are often preferable is correct) you don't want to think as much about a "supportive" saddle as you do a saddle that is comfortable for the child. A saddle that you may consider supportive might actually force the child into a very uncomfortable position that his/her muscles should not be forced into.
(I'm a jerk and I know it but) I have to say that if you do not have experience working with this type of disability, there is the distinct possibility of doing more harm than good. You asked for a list of TR centers and I think that is really your best bet. Start with NARHA's website. www.narha.org.
My expertise is limited only to my own daughter, who has CP, but I think you would be best off sticking with a bareback pad. Differences in muscle tone may make the additional bulk and firmness of a saddle very uncomfortable.
I also agree with shanky that you need to get permission from your rider's mother to speak to her pediatrician or physical therapist to make sure you are not unknowingly causing problems. You can cause pain or injury if you try to push your rider into a position that she is not capable of, as CP not only effects muscles, but can cause bone deformities as well. Many folks, like my daughter, have hip problems and scoliosis, which need to be considered carefully when deciding on positioning.
While your volunteerism with Special Olympics is commendable, you must keep in mind that SO is for people with intellectual disabilities, and while they may have some physical limitations, CP can be very different.
"Is it ignorance or apathy? Hey, I don't know and I don't care." ~Jimmy Buffett
There is a reason NARHA exists. There is a reason why getting certified at the *first* level takes at least 6 months, written tests, and a two-day certification test. There is a reason why NARHA instructors must complete many hours of 'continuing education' every year.
And this thread is why.
Because ours students’ bodies/minds/etc work differently than some. What may feel good to you may be indescribably painful to a student. Things you do without thought may be incredibly challenging, and rewarding, to a student. Teaching someone with a disability is not teaching the student like you would any other beginner and referring to them as "XX the YY kid" It takes a solid understanding of human and horse anatomy, biomechanics of riding/stride, motor behavior and skills, and countless other subjects. Above all, it is not just knowing this material, but being able to use and apply it on the spot.
While your efforts and interest in this young lady are commendable, her safety and wellbeing should be paramount. You mentioned her mother eventually wanting to take her to a therapeutic riding center - that time is now.
I agree with Shanky and In. I am a certified NARHA instructor, and I would urge you to look into the NARHA certification process if you are going to work with riders with physical challenges. I have worked with riders with hypertonic CP and we always use a bareback pad and surcingle so the rider's leg is never forced into a position.
I think it's great that you are so willing to help kids achieve their dreams, but you have to be careful that you first do no harm to riders with certain diagnoses and physical limitations. If your student's Mom is considering a Therapeutic Riding program, you should direct her to an accredited NARHA program. Centers that are accredited must go through a thorough inspection to meet NARHA standards for safety, record keeping, horse care and instruction. Here's the NARHA website: www.narha.org