The Ottawa Area Center currently provides students who are medically permitted the opportunity to participate in a year round horseback riding program. We house within our school a mechanical horse which we can utilize every day regardless of the outside weather.
Though our program is considered a recreational riding program, it does offer a wide variety of therapeutic benefits naturally through the exposure and movement of the horse. The M.O.V.E. (Mobility Opportunities Via Education) concepts that are practiced inside the classroom are often incorporated within our riding program providing a unique opportunity. M.O.V.E. on horseback is very beneficial in a natural and effortless way for the rider. (M.O.V.E. stands for Mobility Opportunity Via Education and emphasizes sit, stand, and walking skills in the midst of activities in the classroom and at home.)
The benefits of horseback riding are as numerous as the types of disabilities and conditions served. Research shows that students who participate in horseback riding programs can experience physical, mental and emotional rewards. Flexibility, balance and muscle strength show improvement. The relationship between the horse and rider can increase confidence, patience and self-esteem. The sense of independence found on the horse's back benefits all who ride.
Even though riding is exercise, it is perceived as enjoyment; therefore the rider has increased tolerance and motivation to lengthen the period of exercise. Simply sitting on a horse requires stretching of the adductor muscles of the thighs. Gravity helps to stretch the muscles in front of the leg as the rider sits on horse without stirrups. Riding with stirrups helps to stretch the heel cords and calf muscles. Stomach and back muscles are stretched while the rider is encouraged to maintain an upright position against the movement of the horse. When the shoulder girdles is stabilized students find greater head and neck control.
For some, riding can be frightening. However the rider learns to overcome these fears through the act of staying on the horse, as well as attempting new skills on the horse.
Our equine facilitated activities incorporate the experience of interaction between the horse and rider in an environment of exercise, learning, and self discovery. As a classroom group exercise, the student learns to practice control by taking turns, waiting, and safely following directions.