Heal­ing-with-horses ther­apy cen­tre dream comes true

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - NEWS - Athena O’Reilly or­eillya@ti­soblack­star.co.za

HORSES in Port Al­fred will be used to help those with psy­cho­log­i­cal and phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties over­come some of the hard­ships they en­dure.

The newly launched Heal­ing Horses Ther­a­peu­tic Rid­ing Cen­tre aims to help those suf­fer­ing from dis­eases like mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, cere­bral palsy and Down syn­drome.

For Jann Webb, 54, the open­ing of the cen­tre is the re­al­i­sa­tion of a life­long dream.

Webb, of Three Sis­ters Horse Trails, said that after months of re­search she had fi­nally been able to bring the idea to life.

Ther­a­peu­tic horse rid­ing was a com­bi­na­tion of sport, re­cre­ation and ed­u­ca­tion and held many ben­e­fits for in­di­vid- uals with phys­i­cal, cog­ni­tive or psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties, she said.

Webb, who has more than 20 years of ex­pe­ri­ence with horses, said the pro­gramme was due to start next month and was open to peo­ple from five years of age.

“I am re­ally ex­cited about this. I have talked, prayed and thought about it for so long and . . . I can’t wait to get the ball rolling,” Webb said.

“They have these pro­grammes in other ar­eas and there are proven re­sults.

“This is go­ing to evolve [how] peo­ple view ther­apy, in ways we can’t even imag­ine right now, but I know the pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less.”

Webb, who is yet to ob­tain a Rid­ing De­vel­ops Abil­i­ties (RDA) in­struc­tor qual­i­fica- tion, said the pro­gramme would help with con­fi­dence while also de­vel­op­ing a sense of free­dom.

“We have just started out and have not yet ob­tained all the nec­es­sary equip­ment, but we will as­sess each per­son based on the in­di­vid­ual.

“We have calm and friendly horses on our farm which work pa­tiently with peo­ple, and es­pe­cially with chil­dren.

“The move­ment of the horse al­lows the rider’s mus­cles to be stim­u­lated and en­sures that the per­son’s emo­tional and phys­i­cal well­be­ing is taken care of.”

Born with cere­bral palsy, Tam­sin Mbatha-Bouwer, 19, of Port Al­fred, learnt to walk through ther­a­peu­tic rid­ing when grow­ing up in Pre­to­ria.

“Horse rid­ing has al­ways been a part of my life and due to my dis­abil­ity I learnt to walk in­de­pen­dently at the age of six,” she said.

“I think had I not been ex­posed to horse rid­ing my life might have been very dif­fer­ent. When I am on the horse, rid­ing, no one can tell that I have a dis­abil­ity.”

Mbatha-Bower was se­lected to train in Europe as a dres­sage rider (the high­est ex­pres­sion of horse train­ing) to rep­re­sent South Africa in the 2016 Rio Par­a­lympics.

Sheena Fer­gu­son, a qual­i­fied RDA in­struc­tor with more than 20 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in Aus­tralia, will be vol­un­teer­ing her ser­vices at the farm.

Heal­ing Horses is a non­profit or­gan­i­sa­tion and those tak­ing part in the ther­apy will not have to pay.

RID­ING HIGH: Tam­sin Mbatha-Bouwer proves that noth­ing is im­pos­si­ble

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