Nicola and Joe share their experiences with horses and the benefits.
Establishing Common Grounds
Horses are wonderful creatures. Like autistic people they love routine. It can also upset them just as much if the routines are not kept to. They prefer to be fed and exercised at the same time each day. Another thing they have in common is needing some relaxation time and time to themselves.
When horses want attention, they can be very affectionate animals. They enjoy a good scratch, a hug or just being groomed can be very therapeutic for both the person and horse. It is also a good way to bond with a horse, as well as giving them treats.
A lot of autistic people need looking after or help with day-to-day tasks so it can be beneficial for them to have the opportunity to look after and be in control of something. It can feel like quite the achievement to complete tasks that benefit the animal instead of just us.
Being around horses can be a great sensory experience whether on the ground or on top of the horse. The soft silky texture of the horse’s coat as you stroke them. Their lips brushing against your hand as you give them a treat. Whilst riding the variety of movements that comes with each different pace. For me, the best feeling you can get when riding is the wind in your hair and the thrill of galloping through a field. The sound of horse’s hooves is great to listen to whether clip-clopping on the road or the thundering sound of them galloping on sand or grass.
Joe, a Talkback member and competitive rider, said:
“Horse riding helps with my core strength and posture through the way we sit and move on a horse, our horses and ponies at the RDA are carefully selected for their temperament and the connection between my pony and myself leads to a full understanding of each other. Riding increases my self-confidence and the opportunity to take part in competition gives me belief in my own ability. Once on my pony, we become a team whether in competition or if just out for a ride, she’s just like a very good friend.”
There are many disciplines you can do with horses so there is something for everyone of all abilities. Showing classes where you can lead the horse or ride. Dressage, show jumping, eventing, racing and many more. If you think sitting in a carriage behind the horse might be more suitable then try carriage driving.
One of my favourite events to watch on TV or on YouTube is Olympia. It is the London International Horse Show, and it has something for everyone whether you are into horses or not. There are food and drink stalls, a big shopping area and lots of events to watch in the main arena. It is running from the 16th to the 20th of December at Excel London.
For more information visit the website The London International Horse Show • London Horse Show – Now at ExCeL.
Horses are loved by autistic and non-autistic people, so it’s a great way to bridge the gap between the two by having a common interest. It could also help autistic people to feel included and have a sense of achievement. Give it a go and you never know; it could open a whole new opportunity for you.