Nura and her pony
For this special needs child, befriending a pony has had great results.
(Sumaya Hisham)

See the gallery of Nura's pony experience.

We first tried hippotherapy (animal assisted therapy using a horse) in Turkey and I have been searching for a suitable centre where Nura could experience this therapeutic treatment on a regular basis. I researched and investigated a few centres, but did not find a suitable programme within reasonable distance, within our budget and with practical expectations.

In November last year I spotted a tiny advert in the daily newspaper and immediately knew this would be for us. The equitherapy (animal assisted therapy using ponies) programme was nearby enough and seemed very professional and organized – and didn’t require the purchasing of a full riding kit.

Our first ride with Darling (Nura’s therapy pony) was heart-warming. Nura sat in the saddle on Darling, supported by Mari and Elias, while Benni lead the way. She was beaming. Her smile and laughter rubbed off on her equitherapy team and they were all smiles as well when they returned from their first walk.

The wind was blustery this first day, but it did not shake Nura’s spirit. She sat tall and Mari was, and still is, convinced that Nura listens and follows all her instructions while she is riding Darling. I was sure Nura would be exhausted by the end of the session, but she seemed to have a renewed surge of energy which lasted the rest of the day.

Since then we ride regularly and Darling is our partner. Nura is calm, content and very excited while riding. She allows Mari to position her sitting forwards, facing backwards, lying on her back while her legs are exercised, lying on her tummy – where she even fell asleep during a session. She is being challenged with every breath and step Darling takes. More recently she has started tightening her grip on Mari’s hand each time Darling’s step deepens as they encounter an incline or a decline.

All her muscles are forced to work and to anticipate what movement might come next. Her centre of gravity is challenged and her core muscles have to kick in regardless of whether her brain is instructing her to do it or not. She holds the reins when they are placed in her hands and seems to hold on tightly for longer than she usually would.

Physiotherapy and occupational therapy combined, on a pony – and it’s relaxing, or so it seems for her, although we know she is working really hard. The sensory stimulation is multiplied as she is experiencing the movement, feeling the touch of the pony against her skin, listening to the therapist, sensing the wind and loving every minute.

This specific equitherapy centre uses their ponies for therapy purposes exclusively, as this is their primary focus. It is a small with lots of personal attention and focus on the individual child’s needs. They work with children of all abilities and have personalized and specific programmes for each child.

Now Nura has a new song – oh my Darling, oh my darling, oh my Darling pony.

Find out more about equitherapy.

Have you tried equitherapy or hippotherapy? Share your story below.

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