Spread the word: Therapeutic riding is not a "pony ride"
I am an instructor at a NARHA Premier Accredited Therapeutic Riding Center in Central Texas. Although only in my early twenties, I have been involved with therapeutic horseback riding (THR) for over nine years. Through all the changes in my young life, THR has been a constant. The small miracles I witness every day make this work one of the most fulfilling on the planet.
Yesterday when I arrived at work I found this e-mail from a co-worker waiting in my inbox:
"During a senate subcommittee meeting regarding financing Medicaid that was held yesterday, senator Williams referred to Therapeutic Horseback Riding as simply “pony rides.” So he, among the other members of the subcommittee, need to be enlightened that Therapeutic Horseback Riding is not simply just a “pony ride” for our participants. Please take the time today to call each of the representatives listed below to educate them on the therapeutic benefits of THR. Every phone call and letter counts as we protest to keep these budget cuts and eliminations from happening.
Sen. Tommy Williams 281-364-9426 ph
Sen. Jane Nelson 817-424-3446 ph
Sen. Bob Deuell 972-279-1800 ph
Sen. Kevin Eltife 903-596-9122 ph
Sen. John Whitmire 713-864-8701 ph
Sen. Judith Zaffirini 956-722-2293 ph"
I am outraged by this, as are all of my coworkers and other members of the THR community. Therapeutic riding is so incredibly far from a "pony ride"--in fact, I tell my students that on almost a weekly basis! In therapeutic riding, we teach individuals with disabilities--everything from autism to cerebral palsy to spina bifida and beyond--how to ride horses as independently as possible. But this is more than a riding lesson. For an autistic rider, the movement of the horse provides sensory input that is unlike any other. It is also often easier for a person with autism to connect to a horse than to people. For riders with physical disabilities like cerebral palsy, the movement of the horse mimics the human gait and helps to build muscle and work joints that the person would use to walk. This year, the parent of one of my students commented that he is much more confident, especially physically. He jumps over things and runs and uses his hands to brace himself over obstacles, none of which he did before beginning to ride.
In short--therapeutic horseback riding IS NOT JUST A PONY RIDE. To lose funding for programs like ours would mean that all of these riders, their families, our volunteers, and staff could be losing one of the most important parts of their lives. TAKE ACTION NOW! If you live in Texas, call or write to these senators and tell them how important THR programs are! And spread the word! The only way to fight this is to counter ignorance with education and knowledge. Even if you aren't in Texas, getting the word out will build support for your own programs and hopefully prevent things like this from happening in other states.
TX did cut from the budget the grants that were used by our handicapped therapy group, so it is closed right now, as that money was paying for the insurance.
Our group is definitely not a pony ride, but the same therapists that work at the hospital working with those same patients, as per instructions from the Drs, but on a horse.
I agree, with wonderful results for so many patients.
I think when it comes to cut grants for all kinds of programs, the squeeky wheels ones will be more apt to keep their funding, although some will have to be cut, if we are to try to get any kind of balanced budget.
So true, so true. What got me back into horses was volunteering at my b/o's therapy program 12 years ago. It was an eye-opener. We used to do a lot of work with at-risk children and teens. That funding dried up years ago. Same for adult patients with traumatic brain injuries. We've had a few women with MS who ride on their own dollar. They endure terrible pain getting on and off, but the motion of the horse at the walk really gets their hips moving, as though they were walking like the rest of us can.
Just pony rides? I guess you just have to see it to believe it.
We've had a few women with MS who ride on their own dollar. They endure terrible pain getting on and off, but the motion of the horse at the walk really gets their hips moving, as though they were walking like the rest of us can.
I have arthritis - not anything like bad enough to qualify for a therapeutic riding program, but pretty bad - and riding DEFINITELY helps loosen up my hips and lower spine in a way that's difficult to replicate off the horse. (Of course, depending on what I'm doing, it may also be hard on other joints - like Western saddles with heavy fenders are really hard on my ankles because of the torque from the fender on the stirrup - but just sitting on a horse in good position? Pretty darn comfy most of the time.)
I'm always surprised by how much better I feel in those areas when I'm able to ride regularly, even 'boring' riding like nose-to-tail trail rides. After that experience, I would quite happily argue with anyone about the benefit of therapeutic riding when done with properly trained instructors (who actually understand the needs of each patient) because if it can take me from waking up feeling like I have a pillar of concrete in my spine to feeling semi-normal, I can only imagine what it might do for others.
Those are all Texas numbers, so I would assume it's a Texas matter. Unless you're actually a patient, volunteer, or instructor for a certified program I'm not sure anyone would pay much attention to out of state calls.