Looking for a new kind of therapy? Consider saddling up and taking the reins.
“I think that many of our students really enjoy riding, because it doesn’t even feel like therapy,” said Christine Hanebury, general manager of Sebastian Riding Associates.
Located in Collegeville, Pa., Sebastian’s equine therapeutic program serves children and adults with a wide range of disabilities including autism, mild to severe intellectual disabilities, as well as physical disabilities including cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, strokes, spinal cord injuries and more.
The focus of the program is to provide a safe, fun and healthy approach to growth and rehabilitation through equine activities and riding.
“For people who are not familiar with riding horses, they might not know that their movements closely resemble a human’s in that they are gaited, rhythmic and repetitive,” Hanebury explained. “Riders use the muscles and pelvis movement needed for walking while increasing trunk strength and balance.”
During the sessions, students also have the opportunity to increase fine motor skills by learning how to attach belts and fasten buckles as they prepare to ride.
But beyond the physical benefits gained through equine therapy, Hanebury noted that learning to ride and care for a horse helps promote psychological wellness too. Over time, a special bond develops between the riders, their instructors and their horses. By achieving goals established by the instructor with the input of the riders and their families, Sebastian helps develop a great sense of success, confidence and accomplishment in its riders.
“Horses are very reflective of your personality,” said Hanebury. “If a horse senses that you are calm, kind and loving, the horse is relaxed and becomes comfortable with you. The opposite is also true, which provides a great learning opportunity to improve behavioral and social skills through the therapy.”
For those not quite sure if they’re ready to try this unique therapy, Hanebury encourages people with disabilities by saying, “It really is amazing to watch. Therapeutic riding offers something different for every person. No matter what your needs are, our instructors are creative in their approach to making our riders successful – all while you are having fun.”
Sebastian Riding Associates is nestled within 27 acres of Evansburg State Park at 3589 Waterstreet Road in Collegeville, Pa. It is open seven days a week, with the majority of lessons in the evenings and weekends. For cost information and additional details, call (610) 489-3741 or visit www.sebastianriding.org.