What is equitherapy?
An animal assisted therapy that works all of the senses? Here’s what you need to know.
(Sumaya Hisham)
Equitherapy is an animal assisted therapy making use of horses or ponies.

The therapy is based on the integration and use of all the senses: touch, movement (including gravity), sight, sound, smell and taste by deepening movement and gravity. 

Equitherapy has been particularly successful with children with learning disabilities. According to research and world renowned experts it has been found that most learning disabilities are caused by sensory integration problems. 

This occurs when our brain does not integrate the information received through our senses from our environment and from movement and gravity. Thus when a child is on a horse or pony  he/she is constantly being exposed to movement and gravity while developing gross motor, fine motor and perceptual skills.

In Nura's case this is what is useful for her. Her entire body is in motion and she has to work incredibly hard to keep herself up, steady and hold her head up and not give in to her natural inclination to collapse inwards into herself or let her head droop. She is pushed to her absolute maximum in keeping her head control. Her body is continuously receiving information regarding her balance and equilibrium and she is forced to adjust to the changes in movement.

The rhythmic motion of the pony helps her focus on the movement – which is deliberate, slow and relaxing. The movement of the pony encourages greater flexibility, muscle strength and balance, and in so doing the child builds muscle tone and better posture.

The visual component of the therapy allows the child to sense physical references, particularly where he/she is in relation to other things in the environment.

Nura is visually impaired so to watch her notice and sense changes in her environment as the pony moves is wonderful. Whether she sees what we are seeing and makes sense of it, we do not know as she cannot communicate this. But her feelings are clear - she thoroughly enjoys riding.
Touching the pony, feeling the warmth and through specific exercises children learn to use their skin as a discriminative and protective system assisting them in interpreting information and as a form of survival. Equitherapy works for children of all abilities as the focus is on the ability of the rider not their inability to do certain things.  

Information provided by Mari Uys from Horse Worx & Equitherapy Centre in Cape Town.

Read about Nura’s equitherapy experience.
See the gallery of Nura during her therapy.

Would you try equitherapy?

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