It is what a horse can do with disabled people that has made me stay round horses so long.
Horses are magical or seem to be, they seem to know how to look after the disabled rider, it is great to see how much both rider and horse achieve together.
Disabled people have ridden horses since time immemorial.
Miss Olive Sands MCSP, started using horses for rehabilitation during and after the 1914-18 war.
There was another boost in the 1950's and 1960's after the poliomyelitis epidemics of that time particularly after Mme Liz Hartel, a polio victim won, a silver medal for dressage at the Helsinki Olympics. In 1964 the early pioneers formed the advisory council on Riding for the Disabled when there were eight groups. By 1969 there were eighty and the council became the Riding for the Disabled Association. Driving for the disabled was added in 1974.
The aim of this type of riding is to help to achieve maximum therapeutic and recreational advantage from their riding experience, this should include communication skills, social integration as well as physical status.
Physiotherapists are part of a team and provide support and confidence to the instructors and helpers. RDA physiotherapists are members of ACPTR Association of Charted Physiotherapists in Therapeutic Riding) a clinical interest group of the chartered society of physiotherapists.
The Object of Sports Riding
a. The object of dressage is to improve balance, control, mobility, memory and freedom. Riding the movements required for a test and maintaining a good rhythm increase the awareness of balance and control.
b. RDA dressage tests range from led, with helpers, at walk, to canter tests with lateral movements. The challenge of learning a test, riding it accurately and performing to the best of the horse's ability, has many positive benefits.
c. The objective for the dressage horse is to develop physique and ability harmoniously, making the horse calm, supple, loose and flexible, but also confident, attentive and keen, thus achieving perfect understanding with its rider.
d. These qualities are revealed by the freedom and regularity of the paces, the harmony, lightness and ease of the movements, the lightness of the forehand and the engagement of the hindquarters, originating in a lively impulsion and the acceptance of the bridle, with submissiveness throughout and without any tension or resistance.
e. The horse thus gives the impression of doing of his own accord what is required of him. Confident and attentive he submits generously to the control of his rider, remaining absolutely straight in any movements on a straight line and bending accordingly when moving on curved lines.
The Benefits of Sports Riding
a. Balance - To ride a dressage test the rider must have an increased awareness of balance. That awareness leads to greater control of the body. Preparation for change of direction takes on greater significance for both horse and rider when the balance is incomplete.
b. Control - In a dressage test the judge is judging the horse not the rider. It is up to the rider to instil and maintain a good rhythm at any pace. This in itself is a demanding task and on either straight lines or circles the rhythm should be consistent. Different riders riding the same horse will achieve astonishing variations.
c. Memory - A dressage test involves a test of memory. Commanded or not, the rider should have, as far as possible, the pattern of movements in their head.
The degrees of accuracy are also variable - depending on the disability of the rider and the training of the horse. An accurately ridden test will give a more capable rider a feeling of achievement, coupled hopefully with a firm desire to improve.