Healing with four hooves - Riding therapy more and more popular

The happiness of this earth lies not only on the back of horses for healthy people. Above all, people with mental or physical disabilities are increasingly relying on cooperation with the ungulate.

Verein zur Förderung der Integration der Behinderter Taunus (VzF)

This is the case, for example, with the Verein zur Förderung der Integration der Behinderter Taunus (VzF): therapeutic riding has been offered there for almost 40 years in Oberursel near Frankfurt. "Since then, a lot has happened," says the director Konstanze Mann. In former times almost only physically handicapped children were treated, today the spectrum has expanded widely.

For example, there is a spastic child who cannot sit straight. During the first few weeks, the child swings through the indoor riding arena half lying on the horse, then his seat becomes more upright. Children with language problems are also treated. The horse listens and does not laugh when a wrong word is used or stuttered. This lowers the inhibition threshold for many and they start to talk.

"The proportion of autistic children has risen sharply in recent years," says Mann. These children usually have problems touching someone or letting themselves be touched. In therapy, they often first walk around the horse until they touch it. At some point, the spell between man and animal is broken, the child takes trust. "The animal makes no demands, that makes it easier for the children", man adds.

However, riding therapy is not a miracle cure for all people with physical or mental illnesses. "Either it goes well or it does not go at all , summarizes man their experiences. The sport and movement therapist Katharina Alexandridis does not see this differently. She heads the Sports and Exercise Therapy Department at the Roseneck Clinic in Prien am Chiemsee.

The therapist deals a lot with people with eating disorders: Here, too, the encounter with the horse helps according to her observations. In dealing with these animals concentration is required, the body language must be unambiguous. All this benefits the patients. "Often their thoughts only revolve around the topic of food. When dealing with the horse, they must be in the real world with their thoughts," Alexandridis says.

For example, she lets the patients lead a horse and stop it on command. The men and women learn to use their bodies and to feel comfortable in them again. The fact that such a large animal goes backwards when they give a small signal with their hand also raises self-confidence. "When a therapist says something, it is sometimes perceived as wrong or derogatory. The patients see the reaction of the horse against it as value-free and accept it therefore , count the Therapeutin a further advantage on .

Billing the health insurance companies is usually difficult. "Sometimes you're lucky," says Alexandridis. The VzF from Oberursel has had similar experiences. "As a rule the health insurance companies pay nothing", says its head man. The problem is known to the German Curatorship for Therapeutic Riding (DKThR) in Warendorf, Westphalia. Together with the Technical University in Aachen, it is planning a long-term study on the benefits of riding therapies. The aim is to convince the health insurance companies to cover the costs.

More info

The beneficial effect of riding on body and soul has been known since ancient times, according to the German Board of Trustees for Therapeutic Riding. The rhythmic movements of the animal have a positive effect on the pelvis and spine. Slack muscles tense up, spastic muscles loosen up. Therapeutic riding is divided into the areas of curative riding, curative vaulting and hippotherapy. In curative education, the focus is on dealing with the horse, in hippotherapy the emphasis is mainly on the physical effects of riding.

The happiness of this earth lies not only on the back of horses for healthy people. Above all, people with mental or physical disabilities are increasingly relying on cooperation with the ungulate.

This is the case, for example, with the Verein zur Förderung der Integration der Behinderter Taunus (VzF): therapeutic riding has been offered there for almost 40 years in Oberursel near Frankfurt. "Since then, a lot has happened," says the director Konstanze Mann. In former times almost only physically handicapped children were treated, today the spectrum has expanded widely.

For example, there is a spastic child who cannot sit straight. During the first few weeks, the child swings through the indoor riding arena half lying on the horse, then his seat becomes more upright. Children with language problems are also treated. The horse listens and does not laugh when a wrong word is used or stuttered. This lowers the inhibition threshold for many and they start to talk.

"The proportion of autistic children has risen sharply in recent years," says Mann. These children usually have problems touching someone or letting themselves be touched. In therapy, they often first walk around the horse until they touch it. At some point, the spell between man and animal is broken, the child takes trust. "The animal makes no demands, that makes it easier for the children", man adds.

However, riding therapy is not a miracle cure for all people with physical or mental illnesses. "Either it goes well or it does not go at all , summarizes man their experiences. The sport and movement therapist Katharina Alexandridis does not see this differently. She heads the Sports and Exercise Therapy Department at the Roseneck Clinic in Prien am Chiemsee.

The therapist deals a lot with people with eating disorders: Here, too, the encounter with the horse helps according to her observations. In dealing with these animals concentration is required, the body language must be unambiguous. All this benefits the patients. "Often their thoughts only revolve around the topic of food. When dealing with the horse, they must be in the real world with their thoughts," Alexandridis says.

For example, she lets the patients lead a horse and stop it on command. The men and women learn to use their bodies and to feel comfortable in them again. The fact that such a large animal goes backwards when they give a small signal with their hand also raises self-confidence. "When a therapist says something, it is sometimes perceived as wrong or derogatory. The patients see the reaction of the horse against it as value-free and accept it therefore , count the Therapeutin a further advantage on .

Billing the health insurance companies is usually difficult. "Sometimes you're lucky," says Alexandridis. The VzF from Oberursel has had similar experiences. "As a rule the health insurance companies pay nothing", says its head man. The problem is known to the German Curatorship for Therapeutic Riding (DKThR) in Warendorf, Westphalia. Together with the Technical University in Aachen, it is planning a long-term study on the benefits of riding therapies. The aim is to convince the health insurance companies to cover the costs.

Source: www.n24.de, by Sabine Maurer, dpa, 06.05.2009

Über die Autorin/den Autor
Diana Saft ist staatlich anerkannte Heilpädagogin und Heilerziehungspflegerin. Sie sammelte bisher Erfahrungen in einem Seniorenheim, in einem Wohnheim für Menschen mit Behinderungen, in einem integrativen Kindergarten und in einem deutschen Kindergarten in den USA.

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