Sunday, September 2, 2012

Horses Help Children with Special Needs & Animal Linky

How Horses Help Children with Special Needs and Animal Bloghop
Photo from Spirit Horse Therapeutic Riding Center
My daughter has special needs so when her doctor mentioned Spirit Horse Therapeutic Riding Center, I immediately enrolled her. Sarah rode several years and loved it. We decided to let other children have a turn taking the free lessons after we moved quite a distance from the center - but we will always have a special place in our hearts for the horses and for the founder, Charles Fletcher, who donated his ranch to help people with disabilities, at-risk, or recovering from trauma including soldiers.

Benefits include improved respiration, circulation, balance, and body metabolism along with greater muscle strength and agility. Mounting and dismounting enhances the range of motion. Children also benefit in psychological and social ways including improvements in self-esteem, confidence, and interpersonal skills. Many riders become more outgoing and autistic children have spoken their first word when they see their horse!

Spirit Horse
There are studies showing that children with autism can benefit from riding horses. I know it helped my daughter who is developmentally delayed and has autistic tendencies. I think she enjoyed grooming the horses almost as much as riding them. Grooming was followed by a few carrot sticks and a mutual love and respect developed. Riding horses addresses several key symptoms affiliated with autism including:
  • communication and social skills,
  • sensory/integration abilities,
  • motor skills, and
  • responses to verbal cues and external stimuli.

I saw a preschooler with no arms learn to ride. She was adopted from another country. With the help of loving parents and angelic horse trainers, this little girl rides a horse on her own. How is this possible? She gradually built up her torso strength. Then special Velcro reins were placed around her back so when she turned her upper body, the horse felt which way she wanted to go. It was quite inspiring to see this young child glow with a sense of pride and accomplishment as she found the joy in riding.

This rider was under 2 pounds when she was born.
Charles Fletcher, founder of  Spirit Horse, believes "horses and ponies have the most accessible spirit of almost any creature and the vast majority have very beautiful spirits. They have one advantage over humans in that they do not have an ego to get in the way of their relationships. We also believe that children with disabilities have very accessible and beautiful spirits. We believe that this spiritual connection is what makes this intervention work. Our horses and ponies always greet the children who lead them from wheelchairs, walkers, and canes. They are so happy to see their riders."
As a former Special Education and Kindergarten teacher, you might be interested in my books Kindergarten: Tattle-Tales, Tools, Tactics, Triumphs and Tasty Treats for Teachers and Parents - in the top 20 on Amazon in Pre/K category. Would you like inexpensive ideas, activities, and games to teach your child through play? Mommy with Selective Memory and I can help save your sanity, one project at a time, with The Happy Mommy Handbook: The Ultimate How-to Guide on Keeping Your Toddlers and Preschoolers Busy, Out of Trouble and Motivated to Learn - in the top 5 on Motherhood on Amazon.

All stories will be accompanied by a Bloghop to which you can link up an animal craft, song, story - anything that shows the play between animals and children. The Bloghop opens now and will follow the participating bloggers. If you are not a blogger but would love to share your story with us, please do so on FacebookFanpage.


Donate to Spirit Horse
9/7       Erin @  Royal Baloo 
9/10     Rebekah @ The Golden Gleam
9/14     Terri @ Creative Family Fun
9/17     Jared & Sunniva @ Solgave 
9/21     Jen @ Kitchen Counter Chronicle 
9/24     Cerys @ rainydaymum
9/28     Stephanie @ Boy Mama Teacher Mama 
9/29     Kat @ Creative Playhouse
9/30     Petunia @ Go Kid Yourself 
10/1     Jacquie@ Edventures With Kids
10/2     Jennifer @ The Good Long Road
10/3     Penny @ Wildlife Fun 4 Kids
10/4     Angelique @ - The Magic Of Play

 Follow us All on PINTEREST 'Children & Animals at Play'  or see  'Children & Animals' Blog 2011. Link up your animal posts! We'd love to see them..


  1. Hi Susan,
    What a beautiful sensitive post! Thnak you for yourbparticipation to this event,
    with much love,

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  3. I most certainly agree that horses have a very easily accessiable spirit. All you have to do it look into thier eyes to know that. I use to ride a lot when I was young and vowed I get a horse of my own one day but until that day comes I'll just have to wait. Wonderful Post Susan!

  4. Penny - thank you. Love your blog. Linked up your Save the Koala post.

  5. What a lovely post, Susan! Once we get settled into our bigger family life, I am going to look into therapeutic horseback riding for our kids. I have heard of it before and your post really brought home the importance of an animal to child connection.

  6. This is a precious post. Thank you for sharing it in Mommy Solutions this week. I have you scheduled to be featured on my Facebook page today at 4:30. Thanks so much, Crystal

  7. This is an inspiring post, thanks for sharing!

  8. Thanks for sharing at tip toe thru tuesday! I've wanted to get my daughter into this type of therapy for a while now!

  9. wow! the story of that little girl is amazing! animals (horses especially) amaze me with their ability to sense what we are feeling/thinking/needing. thanks for linking up!