All over the world, horseback riding is considered a beneficial form of therapy. For those with MS, therapeutic horseback riding is very valuable. The horse’s gait is similar to a human walk so it stimulates the human gait. Horseback riding strengthens the core muscles which improves coordination, poise, posture and increases joint mobility. As Fran, a volunteer at Stride (South central Therapeutic Riding, Inc.) told me last year at the Alaska Fun Fair that horseback riding facilitates body balance recovery skills and the girth of the horse eases spasticity while the motion of the horse increases coordination.
I’m very grateful that our local MS Center provided us with a partial scholarship for 4 weeks of therapeutic horseback riding! I have little experience on a horse and in my condition, I had no idea what to expect!
I went to the barn before the scheduled ride so Stride was able to assess my size, strength and ability. I met the volunteers and staff who work for Stride and they honestly treated me like a queen! My grandsons were able to play on the ‘rocking horse’ for a few minutes when I was done! A horse was chosen for me, a plan for mounting and the saddle (Surcingle with a handle bar in my case) was also chosen.
Even though I’m not the worrying type, the first day I was nervous. They told me the horse was well-trained and I had “walkers” on all sides. Being so high on the horse was a time I knew I was totally out of control! I’ve taken enough falls during my years with MS and I was just recovering from the neuro pain I think I created for myself with the hand-held massager!
I told the walkers very clearly about my “rule”; if I start to fall they must fall down first so I have a soft landing. That got a chuckle out of all of them but I don’t think they had any intention of following my rule! The thought of falling from that height made me anxious!
Having completed the first session with not so much as a stumble, I was ready for the 2nd week. I was confident and had a completely enjoyable time! As we met in the middle of the arena to exercise, I was able to raise my hands completely above my head and do the motion exercises with ease! As we walked the arena I was able to put my hands on my hips letting go of the Surcingle! Next week I will trust my horse while keeping my hands on my hips or straight out to the sides allowing the motion to work my muscles! I’m really looking forward to week three!