e enjte, 21 qershor 2007

If you love horses, therapeutic riding- you have to see this

I stumbled on this website www.equicizer.com when trying to find a solution for a little girl trying to learn how to post on a horse. She has some special needs and the therapeutic riding center where I volunteer has a waiting list of over 2 years and she can't get more than 30 minutes to ride per week. I found the Equicizer about a year ago and just recently- that center got their first Equicizer... so now 2 out of 3 of the non profits I'm involved with own one! I have cried more times from equicizer moments in the last 6 months than in the last 6 years and when something moves you that much- you better freakin share it with the world!

Here's one of the 1,723,234 stories and reasons why I think every non-profit, therapeutic riding, equine assisted therapy, racetrack, equestrian center, training center, exercise center and any real horse freak needs to own an equicizer. And by the way- I don't work for them and I'm not some car salesman! Just a girl who believes in the power of horses and finally there is a way to overcome fear, weather and cost for those who can't afford a living horse. While there is no replacing a living animal from an emotional connection standpoint, I had no idea there was a way to replace the physical benefits and believe me, just feeling the motion brings up an emotional memory of riding a living horse. At the Equine Affaire in Ohio I saw a woman just start crying the minute she felt the motion because she hadn't ridden due to a leg in jury in years. Anyway, I have a grant proposal that helped me get funding for an equicizer. Anyone interested can email me at equichick@gmail.com

Ok- get a tissue - this testimonial below is worth the long read. http://www.equicizer.com/

Thoughts and Testimonial about the Equicizer
Amy Austin, therapeutic riding instructor at Chastain Horse Park in Atlanta.

I'm the head therapeutic instructor at Chastain Horse Park in Atlanta. I've been here 7 years now and work with many individuals with disabilities, physical and mental. I also work with many adult riders which is particularly rewarding. I find that there is a misconception out there among adults that therapeutic riding is just for children, and that is just not so! I have many adults who enjoy riding for exercise, therapy and just plain fun.

I have had quite a lot of experience with autistic children and adults here, both boys and girls. And yes, the horses are GREAT for them! I've worked with those that are 'profoundly' autistic, and those that have Aspersers’ syndrome, and other more mild forms. I've had the best luck with those that are doing other therapies at home and in other therapeutic settings. Those children whose parents are overwhelmed and under funded usually do the worst, though the parents all tell me that the riding has been the best for their child.

Riding a horse is very 'organizing' for the brain, especially where the senses are concerned. Riders who struggle to take in all sensory data and make sense of it often have an easier time on the horse. The movement is so gentle and relaxing that most enjoy it, once you get past the initial fear they may have. Also, riding offers different sensory input than they are used to. Trotting especially offers that deep sensory input from the bounce, bounce rhythm. Most don't want to learn to post because they don't get that kind of sensory input in their usual life! We've had riders speak their first words after a riding session, so we know it is definitely doing something! We've also seen riders go from simply parroting what you say to actually talking and interacting with you.

For those with Asperger's, horses offer a good social setting for them to learn how to behave with a peer group. Plus, a horse won't do what you want unless you 'ask' properly! We usually have these riders group up and talk about the lesson at the end, who did something well, whose horse did well, etc.... that way they build those social skills.

All in all, riding has been a positive thing for all the clients I've been around. Some parents have been so impressed, they've actually bought horses for their children to have access to every day. Pretty amazing huh? We just received our Equicizer, and I am amazed at what we are able to do with it!! I work closely with an OT that sees adult as well as pediatric clients for hippotherapy and with her, we have developed some exercises for a few adults that have MS. She has also used it with some of her children, especially on those cold days when it is really hard for the kids to stay warm. At least she can be in the barn. I'd really love to have the pony version to keep in our clubhouse for days like that! I'm hoping that one day we can have a place at the stables that we can use that is climate controlled to put this guy in.

Anyway, the ladies that have MS are the first individuals I have worked with on the Equicizer (we have to come up with a name for him! I call him Elvis, but we are going to have a contest, so hopefully he will soon have an official name). One lady in particular, I wasn't sure we could even get on a horse. She is in a motorized wheelchair and has to be physically transferred out of the chair onto a horse. We were able to get her on for a very short period of time before she was exhausted. She couldn't sit up without pushing up on the surcingle handle, and even that was hard. Forget letting go with even one hand to do any kind of stretching, etc.

She kept coming back and we kept trying, but it was very hard for her. When her horse went on vacation, I wasn't sure who I could safely put her on, so I decided to use Elvis as an evaluator of her ability to maintain on a mount with much more movement than she was used to. We found out quickly that another horse we had in mind would not work at all. So, while her mount was gone, she worked on Elvis. It was amazing. She made small amounts of progress for a month on a horse, but on Elvis, she made progress by leaps and bounds. Coming twice a week for 'workouts' she can now 'ride' Elvis for about 40 minutes. She can make him move on her own for up to 10 minutes with her hands on her thighs, sitting completely independently. She is able to do all kinds of stretching exercises while Elvis is still, and is doing really great with maintaining her balance and posture while a volunteer moves Elvis for her. She even does 'horsey push ups' by placing her hands, fingers facing in, on Elvis's 'withers.' She can now do 20-30 of these. She has come this far in only one month. I have been completely floored by her progress. I always expect the best, but sometimes you just don't know how far that can go. Well, all that has changed. I never expected this kind of progress in so short a period of time. People always ask me how long it will be before they see progress or changes due to riding. I always tell them that it depends on the individual, the disability, etc.... and what else is going on in thier personal life. I would have said it would take much longer to get where we are now with this lady. I asked her once if she was doing so well because she was having a really 'good' day or if she thought the riding was really helping. She was emphatic and said she directly attributes her improvement with the work she has done at Chastain.

She hasn't been back on her usual mount because the weather here in Atlanta has been very bad, especially on Thursdays when she is supposed to ride, but I think she is really excited about her work on Elvis. She has a wonderful attitude and was like that to start, but she is even better now, I think. We are all excited to see how she does back on a real horse this week. We expect her work on Elvis to carry over. She wants to continue to work out on Elvis once a week and ride a horse the other day.

There are some other individuals out there that are going to come out for an evaluation as to whether or not they will be able to ride, but with the Equicizer, I now have another option for them instead of just telling them that riding just wouldn't be safe for them. I also do consults with Shepherd Spinal center for clients who are returning to horses post injury. Some of them haven't been cleared for riding, so all I can do is go over things on the ground they need to do and tell them what to watch for when they ride again. Now, we will be able to work out mounting strategies and riding strategies for these people on the Equicizer.

Another instructor here has had success with a couple of children that come once a week to Chastian with their school for horse experiences. One in particular has never been on a horse. He just refuses to even try. Well, we left Elvis out next to the ramp so that the kids would get a chance to see him on the way in the barn.
This one child got on and sat on Elvis for a few minutes and has done so each week. Who knows? We may get him on a horse yet!

Well, there are a few success stories. I know there will be many more to come. We are just so excited to have this guy!! It has really changed how I consider clients for riding here as I have more options now. I'm also excited about working with the OT and developing more exercises and routines we can use. I'd love to hear about any that you use! I need more ideas than I can come up with!"

I am involved with 3 non profit organizations for people with special needs and they all involve horses, equine assisted activities and therapeutic riding. Ok- so I'm a horse freak. But I am just as big of a "help others" freak and I've decided that I have to win the megabucks lottery so I can buy everyone an Equicizer. Please write your ideas and comments!

Chris Harvey- Clayton, CA

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