By David F. Rooney
Tanya Secord’s new Therapeutic Riding Program at the Selkirk Saddle Club is bearing some remarkable and heart-warming fruit — the beaming smiles on the faces of its small students and tones of wonder in the voices of their parents.
“It has been eye-opening to see her comfort and self-confidence growing with every session,” Kaleigh Thomson said of her three-and-a-half-year-old daughter Neava. “Eventually she’ll be able to do this on her own.”
Okay… a child on horseback… that might not seem remarkable until you realize that the child in question has cerebral palsy and uses a walker to get around. That limits her, but Neava’s weekly, 30-minute session on the back of Tanya’s 18-year-old quarter horse, Misty, gives her a freedom she couldn’t previously imagine.
Assisted by volunteers like Marcia Woods and Donna Naprstek, Tanya walks beside the horse talking with Neava and encouraging her to try motor-skill and balance tasks like holding a spoon containing a ball in its cup, dropping plastic rinks onto cones or holding her hands abic=ve her head.
Neava is one of two students in Tanya’s newly inaugurated program. The other is four-year-old Zayden Griffith. Born 24 weeks premature, Zayden was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when he was three.
“He seems so happy on the horse,” said his mom, Christine. “He pays attention to Tanya and responds to her and performs the exercises.”
Tanya, an ardent horse-lover, has long recognized that there is a healthy attraction between children and horses and last year completed a 120-hour CANTRA (Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association) certification course in Kelowna that prepared her to introduce disabled kids to horses through the Selkirk Saddle Club.
“The connection you can see and feel between many horses and children is almost magical” she said in an interview.
Therapeutic riding programs have been in existence for years here in BC and elsewhere. Tanya was trained through the Arion Therapeutic Farm in Kelowna. Revelstoke has never had this kind of program and Tanya believes it’s beneficial to the community.
“Therapeutic riding can be used to assist people with disabilities to improve their physical and mental health. It is highly beneficial for balance, strength as well as behavioural, social and communication skills,” she said, adding that she has three horses that are suitable for this program.
- The benefits include:
- Improvement of balance;
- Development of coordination;
- Mobilization of trunk and pelvis;
- Strengthening of muscles;
- Normalization of muscle tone;
- Prevention of contractures;
- Increased confidence and self-esteem;
- Improvement of attention span;
- Promotion of independence;
- Improvement of social integration; and
- Access to recreation.
According to the Therapeutic Riding page on the Selkirk Saddle Club website sessions with are $50 a week or $25 for 30 minutes. Therapeutic Riding is covered/partially covered with many extended health benefits.
It’s not hard to see why Tanya is so enthusiastic about her program. The smiles on the faces of these small children suggests that Therapeutic Riding can help them overcome the tough hurdles ahead of them.
For more information please contact Tanya Secord at 250-814-8606 or send her an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some additional photos from the Therapeutic Riding Program in the riding ring at the Selkirk Saddle Club: