MS in the Saddle with Therapeutic Horseback Riding

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!

I’d love to hear about your experiences horseback riding! Tell me in the comments below!

Linda

About our Co-Founder: With a bachelors in Social Work, Linda is 53 years old, happily married with eight children and 17 grandchildren. Diagnosed with MS in 1995 and now having accepted and truly embraced her new reality, Linda has created MSrelief.com. She is dedicated to proving that joy can be chosen while living with Multiple Sclerosis. Linda specializes in helping others, especially those with MS attain the lifestyle, independence and happiness amid living with MS.

16 Comments:

  1. How does this compare to riding a scooter…150cc…?

  2. Are you feeling/noticing any benefits lasting week to week? I am! Significant decrease in night leg/foot cramps, esp on the night of the ride and increased endurance for walking at my job. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, come rain or shine!

    I was chatting with some horse folks at the AK State Fair. They are thinking of providing a “disability day” where there will be special tack, horses and staff available.

    • Stephanie~
      I felt great after last weeks ride~ I have no idea if it was because of a one hour horse back ride! Today is another ride, we’ll see how it goes!
      ~Linda

  3. I would love that. The kids in the video looked like they were having fun ;0)

    • Jen~
      It’s so funny, the week my youngest son was leaving for college, my oldest daughter moved back in with her 4 little kids (husband soon to follow)! I have to say they really are an unexpected joy!
      ~Linda

  4. Been taking it few about 4 year and OMG it is amazing. Not been able to go in summer because of the North Carolina heat, but not going these past few months is aweful. I have been “tipping” over. I need horsey-core work that only a horse can give.

    • Lauren,
      Now that I’ve finished my third week, I have to agree, it is amazing! I feel for you with the North Carolina heat, and now we’re entering into our Alaska cold! I don’t think I’d to horse back ride in either!
      Linda

  5. In the new little scooters that get *70mpg you have to have balance and coordination. Takes time to learn. Plus learning the mc laws, and taking the tests. I have gone horseback riding before and that is my love. Just wondering on M S if both help our M S.

  6. Linda

    As the horse moves he is aware of your position and will move to support the center of gravity of both you and the horse. He will try to keep you balanced and on his back.

    david

    • Hey David!
      Thanks for taking the time to comment! I learned so much from you during our weekly therapeutic horse back riding! I remember the first week I was so nervous, fearing I’d fall right off the horse! You reassured me every week that you would follow the “rules” and fall first to give me a soft landing! Really you assured me that I wouldn’t fall and the second week I was feeling quite confident! All of you walkers taught me so much that I didn’t know about horses and therapeutic horseback riding! Thank you all!
      ~Linda

    • From trepidation to riding with your eyes closed in 4 sessions was quite an accomplishment. I can only hope that you got benefit from the exorcizes.

      David @ Stride

      • Hey David! I definitely had serious benefit! With MS we can never pinpoint exactly what it helping but during that month I felt myself get stronger and less MSee! Thank you!
        ~Linda

  7. I fell very happy after reading your post because I am big fan of horseback riding. I didn’t aware how much it is useful for our life also. Thanks for sharing this good post.

    • James,
      I thank you for taking the time to comment. Yes, many people with MS find therapeutic horseback riding helpful. One of the famous people is Ann Romney, she feels that her MS was managed in large part with horseback riding.
      ~Linda

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