Most days I’d go without a saddle and ride with a halter and lead rope for reins. The hours I spent teaching my body to mold to my horse, were priceless and precious pieces of my move toward what I call my bilingual world – half Aspie, half neurotypical.
Studies tell us equine therapy helps a person with core strength and balance, hand/eye coordination, body-awareness, focus and concentration, interpersonal communication skills, self-esteem, patience and self-control and sensory integration. Bingo. The magic mixture of autism supports. I hit the jackpot when I sat on my first pony as a little bitty girl. All these neat things began happening within my body to help me enter the seemingly crazy world a bit more seamlessly, because I took a liking to horse riding and care.
There are several different therapeutic based riding programs involving equines though they each share the belief that the horse’s gate and the warmth from his body along with the vestibular input the horse provides, work together to help the rider’s body align and work in ways that positively facilitate a variety of neurophysiologic systems. For example, research has shown equine based therapeutic riding can help the rider with bilateral coordination, sensory information processing, speech and language skills, core strength, fine motor control, standing, walking and self-control, confidence, leadership skills, executive functioning skills, depression, anxiety and fear, and perhaps a whole host of other things we have yet to attribute to equine therapy.
On a horse, I am free. My body forgets there is still a tightness that sits in my muscles and that I remain relatively uncoordinated. My mind forgets the complications I have when trying to understand language and do simple things like coordinating my schedule or running a household. On a horse I can forget my baggage and turn my trust over to the animal beneath me and truly, together, we work out what each of us needs to find that joint comfort zone of relaxed beast and relaxed human. The horse will drop his shoulders and engage his hind end to balance. I’ll adjust my seat bones and posture to help him. He’ll buck out a little or grind his teeth against his bit if I’m not doing my job to center him. I’ll nudge him forward or adjust my pressure on the reins to help him do his. We are a team working for physical connection. Most importantly, we are friends.
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