Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Therapeutic Horseback Riding-ERCT

We are fortunate to be a member of the Austin Special Needs group and the founder is a wonderful woman who tries to find all sorts of activities for kids with various abilities.  She recently set up a visit with Equine Rehabilitation of Central Texas [ERCT].  During this trip, Ellie had the opportunity to feed and groom horses and to ride a horse.

More on how this went with Ellie in a bit!

I have heard of hippo therapy and equine therapy, but I never really understood what it was.  Here is wiki's take on it:

Hippotherapy is a form of physical, occupational and speech therapy in which a therapist uses the characteristic movements of a horse to provide carefully graded motor and sensory input. A foundation is established to improve neurological function and sensory processing, which can be generalized to a wide range of daily activities. 

Equine therapy, also known as Equine-Assisted Therapy (EAT), is a treatment that includes equine activities and/or an equine environment in order to promote physical, occupational, and emotional growth in persons suffering from ADDAnxietyAutismCerebral PalsyDementiaDepression, Developmental Delay, Genetic Syndromes (such as Down Syndrome), traumatic brain injuries, behavioral issues, abuse issues, and many other mental health problems.[1] Equine Therapy can help the individual build confidence, self- efficiency, communication, trust, perspective, social skills, impulse control, and learn boundaries.[2] Since the horses have similar behaviors with humans, such as social and responsive behaviors, it is easy for the patients to create a connection with the horse.[3] Riders with disabilities demonstrate their remarkable accomplishments in national and international sport riding competitions. Equine-Assisted Therapies all over the world have developed as a medical field recognized by most major countries.

Photo courtesy of horserct.org
This makes me so angry.  I am happy to report that he looks much healthier.

Ellie was under the mistaken assumption that we were going to go ride the horses, aka carousel, at the mall.  Imagine her surprise when she realized that they were real horses.  At ERCT, these horses were neglected and rehabilitated back to health before being trained to serve as therapy horses.  Upon arrival, girlfriend was led into the barn to feed the horses hay and carrots.  It did not go as planned.  She was afraid of the horse.  Excited, but scared.  She took great pleasure in gathering the horse feed and placing it in our hands.  Giggle of delight escaped her lips as Andrew and I fed the horse.  Giving Ellie the feed elicited cries and frantic shaking of her head  "nooooo".

Now Chicken was due to ride a horse and I am not talking about a Shetland pony here, folks. I mean a horse.  Big horse.  Imagine our surprise and shock when Ellie hopped onto that horse!

Riding the horse worked dramatically on her core strength and it wore her out more than any other activity.  Not only was her core working and her legs working to hold her up but also her mind.  She needed to channel all of her concentration into staying on top her horse.  Take that ADHD!  Her communication was also put into practice.  She had to give commands to her horse such as "walk on", "stop", and "go".  Ellie has to sign walk and stop sounds a bit like "op!", but her "go" is perfect.  Finally, her fine motor skills were honed in while she was forced to hold the reigns.

Next week, she will start regular lessons and learn to groom and feed her horse.  She will learn to care for her saddle and will also build an unspeakable bond with her horse Mickey.  Er, Icky!

*ERCT is a nonprofit 501(c)3 that is run by volunteers and donations.  It can cost upwards of $3,000 to nurse a emaciated horse back to health.  Lisa, the owner, is always looking for people to volunteer.



  1. I am so glad Ellie has this wonderful therapy! I have heard of this kind of therapy before, but didn't realize all the benefits!

    1. I didn't either! Ellie is loving it and doing great. She tries to talk more at horse therapy than any other time!

  2. Oh that sounds really wonderful. She's a natural on that horse!

    1. Crystal, it is wonderful. I am so happy that we found this place.


I love your comments and I read each and every single one of them.