The Benefits of Horse Riding as Part of the School Curriculum
For this seminar paper therapeutic horse riding is defined as equine assisted activities. Over time therapeutic horse riding has been utilised to cover a variety of equine activities in which a range of children with special educational needs participate. This involves mounted activities and riding disciplines taught by a certified riding for the disabled instructor. The seminar paper will explore the perceived benefits that horse riding has as part of the physical education curriculum for children with special educational needs. The paper introduces the physical benefits of horse riding and questions what the potential benefits are. Furthermore the paper draws attention on how riding supports learning and develops speech and language. In addition, it will explain the rationale and underpinning theory for learning outdoors. Finally it will investigate the barriers to implementing riding as part of the curriculum. A range of evidence highlights how a holistic approach to horse riding can be an important part of physical education. There are very few current published studies measuring the effects of equine assisted programs for the author to critically analyse.
What are the potential benefits?
Equine assisted activities have been recognised as improving the quality of life for many individuals with almost any cognitive, physical and/or emotional disability (Elliott, et al, 2008, p.2; Bass, et al, 2009, p.1; Scott, 2005, p.11). Often, children with special educational needs can experience a combination of the above difficulties. Consequently, they need a high quality physical education that meets their needs (Training and Development Agency for Schools, 2009, p.4). Therefore having access to different types of physical activities within the setting, will develop a range of experiences and reduce barriers to participation (Hayes & Stidder, 2003, p.17). Furthermore, Pond (et al, 2011, p.39) suggests horse riding improves behaviour, encourages responsibility and development of new skills. In addition Samfira & Petroman (2011, p.153) claim that animal assisted activities have a positive impact on behaviour and education. Research studies have shown that the therapeutic benefits of horse riding can be broken down into the following categories.(David, 2007, p.35; Palestra, 2006, p.48).
The movement of a horse facilitates the rider to work on many physical attributes. These include balance, co-ordination, posture, flexibility, strength, and relaxation of muscle groups (David, 2007, p.38; Palestra, 2006, p.48). Scott (2005, p.11; Snider, et al, 2007, p.8; Elliott, 2008, p.20) claims when a horse is walking actively, the horse’s movement causes the rider’s pelvis to recreate the movement of a person walking. This can be turned into therapeutic gains. Scott (2005, p.11) reveals that no other modality mimics that of the human gait than that of a horses movement when walking. Sterba (et al, 2002, pp. 306-307) further claims in order to follow the movement of the horse, riders must develop good balance and core strength. Much of staying on and moving with a horse comes from your trunk. Few studies claim that children who have cerebral palsy can find horse riding effective because it targets several key weaknesses associated with the disorder (Snider, et al, 2007, pp.7-8; Sterba, 2006, p.69). The physical benefit includes improving posture, muscle strength, core strength and the walking movement increases blood flow that stimulates the muscles (Snider, et al, 2007, p.8). This finding supports the evidence of a child in the setting who has very tight leg muscles due to having cerebral palsy. By riding the horse for ten minutes without stirrups, this relaxed the leg muscles. Subsequently, the child was able to bend their leg and place it in a stirrup comfortably without any aids. In a physical education lesson at school this movement has not...
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