A few weeks ago on my personal Facebook page, a memory came up from three years ago. It was Lilly riding our former “therapeutic” miniature horse. I sat there for a good five minutes watching her riding unassisted, (no spotters on either side of her) with an adult leading her around. Her core was strong and she was using the reigns properly. It left me speechless because she hadn’t ridden like that in a long time; it left me wondering if she would get back there. Like all things, I have recently been reminded of the benefits of therapeutic riding and that we built her up to be able to ride.
It all started nine years ago when Lilly was six months old. At the time, Lilly couldn’t sit up on her own and we where doing physiotherapy to help with that. My mom’s childhood best friend came to visit and while holding Lilly, she asked if Lilly has been on a horse before. The answer was no. That was the start of Lilly’s journey with horses. We bundled her up and took her outside for her first riding experience, she loved it! My aunt stated that “that was the start of the quest to get a horse for Lilly.”
Note: We have done therapeutic riding a bit differently than how most people would experience it at a therapeutic riding centre. Lilly is taught by a professional riding instructor who rode for the JR Canadian Olympic Team at one point, her Nana has been riding since a young age, I have also been riding throughout my life, her godmother is an occupational therapist who rides with us, and my aunt was formerly a barrel racer.
Lilly started with assisted riding with two spotters, (one on each side) and slowly made her way up to lead line. Three years ago, I was starting to look for shows/rodeos to register Lilly in. It had taken a lot of therapy and goal making to get Lilly to the point; but then surgery got in the way and PICU happened so those plans got put on hold.
Communication. Both of my kids have speech disorders and we have used riding to help with their speech goals. A-man’s speech improved a lot in the summer of 2016, because he started lessons and had to use his voice to say “trot, walk, whoa, walk on, and 1, 2, 3 Go.” Lilly is non-verbal and there are a few goals we have been working on, which she is starting to meet. The best thing about horses is that they communicate through emotions, through their muscles, and through body language; they can read Lilly by her body language too.
Physiotherapy. Lilly has done a lot of riding with her muscles touching the horse’s muscles, to help her body learn the movement of the horse (bareback riding). We have also done Botox treatments in the past for her right shoulder, she made progress and was able to hold the reign with her right hand.
Community. Right now our community is small but my kids and their cousins get together for riding. As both kids get older they will be going to shows, rodeos and 4-H events. Organised sports can be difficult to take part in, but for us, riding allows both of them to get involved in community events and to make friends.
Over the years, riding has had a huge impact on both of my children. They look forward to seeing their horse every time we go out to the farm for lessons. We have worked closely with Lilly’s medical team and our trainer to come up with a plan for riding.