Many difficulties and conditions are helped by a reduction in anxiety levels.
We do this through a combination of the right physical environment, communication, movement and activities.
Reducing the level of anxiety helps the brain become more receptive to information. This helps different people in many varying ways, but improved communication and social behaviour are common, and many other benefits follow. Read More
Sessions may include some or all of :-
Most sessions will start with a chance to go on the trampoline, swing, climbing frame, play football, run in the fields or perhaps just look around.
This is not just for the fun, it also releases pent up energy from a sometimes long car journey,
and helps brings down the anxiety levels and allow them to concentrate a bit more on the next part.
Throughout the session there will be opportunities to play and develop interaction and communication using water, sand, gravel, balls and other props
Spending time handling, grooming and decorating the horses and ponies provides lots of sensory input and also helps gain confidence, which can be built on by leading the ponies in hand along the lane, in the fields or in the arena prior to actually getting on, doing sensory work and riding.
Sensory therapy is an important part of the process and as the name suggests involves a lot of touching, feeling, smelling, listening, and yes some children do taste!
The close contact achieved by sitting or lying on a horse can have a profound effect. Many people find this extremely relaxing and it is not unheard of for someone to fall asleep.
Although some can be nervous at first we often find that once confidence is gained the child will lay for long spells, repetitive movement and other stress related coping methods
reduce dramatically and often stop.
Some children are hesitant about getting on the horses and having a parent or sibling try out the sensory work first gives them a chance to see the magical sense of peace and calm this can create. The parents get their own therapy and it often gives the child the confidence that it is safe to try themselves. Sometimes parent and child or two siblings will sit on the horse together to achieve this.
Leading, longreining or riding the ponies through obstacle course or in teams help gain confidence and interaction.
Some of our horses are trained to do tricks and we use this to help motivate and encourage communication. A direct response from the horse to a childs cue has a very motivational effect.
Double riding with an adult can generate an amazing response in some children. The combination of the deep pressure from the adults arms holding them, the movement of the horse,
and the sound of the adult talking or singing to them constantly from behind with no eye contact can promote speech and open channels of communication that were blocked before.
We always have “runners” nearby on the ground to watch the child reactions and anytime they want to get down, we stop and they are lifted down immediately.
We may intersperse this riding with other activities to promote concentration, focus and involvement in other things.
Double riding is only possible with smaller children. Once they are too big to double ride we will lead the ponies as the children ride themselves, initially accompanied by a helper each side to keep them secure and give confidence, as they progress this may be reduced to one helper. Once they are comfy with this we may long rein the horses from behind as the child rides.
Whilst we do aim to get the majority of our visitors on a horse and riding, we are not teaching people to ride independently. Some people do go on to take up riding more seriously and we can help on this journey, but this is not our primary focus. The riding is incidental to the therapy roll of the horses.
Hand painting the horses and cleaning up afterwards using the hosepipe is fun and can get the whole family, staff and volunteers giggling and very messy. There is purpose in our madness as this can frequently gain involvement from children who generally do not participate or are reluctant to experiment with the new feelings and texture of paint on their hands. Many children with autism are fascinated by water, washing their hands after painting and also washing the horses off can also help get them more involved.
There is a trail through a small woodland area where we can ride the horses or families can walk, there are places to stop to participate in activities and enjoy the outdoor environment, or have some quiet time. We are developing a BBQ area, a fire pit , seating, a picnic table, hammocks and a quiet area. Many sessions include some games in the woods.