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Accessibility Studies

ASP visits Therapeutic Horseriding Center

Therapeutic horse with volunteer at New Kingdom Trailriders Dr. Petersen, director of Accessibility Studies at Central Washington University, visited New Kingdom Trailriders signpostNew Kingdom Trailriders,  to observe therapeutic horses in action. These horses must be able to handle any type of person… especially those who move a lot or are anxious. Their disposition must be calm and they must already be very responsive to commands. There are 9 horses boarded there, all of them retired, all of them donated. The barn is calm and orderly, with several instructors and volunteers seeing to the horses’ grooming and feeding needs. Two were preparing for the next lessons. They began warming up 15 minutes before the lesson starts, rehearsing their path around the arena with their assigned walkers.

Each rider needs several volunteers to follow the instructor’s guidance: someone to lead, plus there are usually two walkers, one on each side of the saddle. Most are riders themselves with a combined passion for the animals and the people they serve. Samira Radi is an instructor for this nonprofit service one day a week. The rest of the week she Samira Radi, equine therapy instructorworks at Rock Island Animal Hospital where she is a veterinary assistant. She just graduated from Augustana College of Rock Island, IL, in Biology and has applied to four veterinary schools. Eventually she hopes to be an equine veterinarian.  

Two riders participated in the lesson: First one then the other rider was led up the wooden steps so they could mount the saddle. Caleb Is a 15 year old with several medical conditions. His grandmother, who adopted him as an infant, said he is estimated at as functioning at 3-5 year old. He was excited and called out some people by name, saying “I like your boots! I like your hat! I like your shirt!”

Rider preparing to mount therapy horseHe comes once a week and his grandmother says it makes all the difference since in no other situation does he ever relax so much. As he circled the arena, shifting directions around obstacles, at one point he and all his walkers raised their hands, part of the ‘two point’ skill set they were reviewing.  The goal is to be able to stand up without holding on to the saddle, working many core and thigh muscles but also learning sequences and balance. Because Caleb has a tendency to move his lower legs a lot, which is a signal for horses to go, he is on a much larger horse that is also less likely to respond to that stimulus.

parents of riders at New Kingdom TrailridersHis grandmother mentioned that in Illinois she only gets 5 hours a week of respite but in Iowa it would be 15.  She mentioned that Iowa provides far more services, and she has been struggling mightily to get Caleb’s needs met, with the school overriding therapeutic decisions and the classroom not being safe. Group lessons cost $150 for the 6-lesson session, usually with just 2 riders. The private lesson rate is $180. The lessons may qualify for several funding resources, such as medical insurance, social services, and education, which varies between states.

The other child was a very small boy with CP who is often either rigid or floppy. While they do have a belt device that could hold him up, he is actually able to sit up and they want to encourage his own strength. His mother laughed and commented that he could be stubborn—true of most 7 year olds! He has attended therapeutic horseriding lessons for two years. In winter he goes to an indoor arena in Iowa. 

Donations and fundraisers along with volunteer labor maintain this charitable organization. Their main fundraising event is the Join the Journey event in September where people share their stories for a $50 meal. This year it will be September 20, 2019 at the Quad City Botanical Center, 2525 4th Ave, Rock Island, IL 61201. They also host other events nearly every month, including socials but also workshops in sign language and relaxation techniques. Tax-deductible donations can also be mailed to them at 18929 81st St, Sherrard, Illinois 61281 or contributed online at http://www.nktriders.org/donate.php   Their wish list includes items typically found in horse barns, such as Thrush Buster and Vet Wrap, but there is a nod to the barn cats with the request for kitty litter. They also need standard school and office supplies.

The lessons are organized in 6-week sessions from the end of February to the beginning of December. They are New Kingdom Trialriders therapeutic horseriding lessonintended to help develop mental stimulation, physical strengthening, emotional development, and social interaction. The NKT website lists examples of conditions that benefit from such lessons: Muscular Dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis, Spinal Bifida, Spinal Cord Injuries, Cerebral Palsy, Traumatic Brain Injuries, Fine/Gross Motor Skills, ADD/ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Visual/Hearing Impaired, Sensory Integration, Learning Disabilities, Developmental Delay, Downs Syndrome, Emotional Disorders. They serve people as young as 4 years old through elderly people. Executive Director Jodie Barton explained “I want to share that magic with first responders, caregivers, Alzheimer's patients, individual suffering from grief, as well as teens who are struggling socialy and/or emotionally.”

New Kingdom Trailriders is an accredited PATH facility There are more than 850 Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) Member Centers in the United States and around the world providing equine-assisted activities and therapies. As explained on their website:

Though PATH Intl. began with a focus on horseback riding as a form of physical and mental therapy, the organization and its dedicated members have since developed a multitude of different equine-related activities for therapeutic purposes, collectively known as equine-assisted activities and therapies (or EAAT). Besides horseback riding, EAAT also includes therapeutic carriage driving; interactive vaulting, which is similar to gymnastics on horseback; equine-facilitated learning and mental health, which partner with the horse in cognitive and behavioral therapy, usually with the participation of a licensed therapist; ground work and stable management; and PATH Intl. Equine Services for Heroes®, which uses a variety of EAAT disciplines specifically to help war veterans and military personnel. In addition, many PATH Intl. volunteer-driven committees are working on identifying and refining even more disciplines and activities that might be put to use in the world of EAAT.  

There are 22 accredited PATH facilities in Washington State, including the Pegasus Project  in Yakima and Spirit Therapeutic Riding Center   in Ellensburg. Kendra Dockins, a member of the Central Washington University Rodeo Club, explained that Rascal Rodeo organizes rodeo events with the theme “Abilities > Disabilities”.   

Horseriding, like swimming, is considered a recreational activity and a sport while also having therapeutic applications. Accessibility Studies Program focuses on the inclusion of people of all ability levels in all public accommodations. Facilities providing such activities are included in the study of ASP 325 Universal Design while careers such as riding instructors are investigated in ASP 305 Accessibility and User Experience. Nonverbal communication is part of ASP 435 Accessible Information Design. The certificate’s culminating course is ASP 485 Accessibility Capstone which is an individual project applying the knowledge of accessibility to a real world environment. Someone interested in therapeutic horseriding could focus on studying these facilities or the effects they have. All courses in Accessibility Studies are offered online. The certificate is only 16 credits. Contact Dr. Petersen for more information.

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