Equine Facilitated Therapy

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Benefits of Equine Facilitated Therapy

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Measuring Success

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Muirfield Riding Therapy provides pioneering, life-changing equine facilitated therapy, which involves activities with horses to promote our participants’ physical and mental health. We make it a fun experience and our sessions offer an opportunity to make new memories.

Working with our specially trained therapy ponies and volunteers, physiotherapists and occupational therapists, we can offer our participants life-changing physical and mental wellbeing benefits. Our sessions are always fun and can include therapeutic riding on horseback in our fantastic Indoor Arena, and out on the lovely Farm trails.

We offer specialist physiotherapy on horseback, and therapeutic riding on our Mechanical Horse, Oreo who is a life sized, horse-shaped, high-tech piece of physio equipment. Our Quiet Corner gives participants who are unable to ride, the opportunity to spend time just being with the pony in a relaxed way, on a one-to-one basis, and we also offer groundwork and stable management activities.

Benefits of Equine Facilitated Therapy

People of all ages, with a wide range of disabilities and life-affecting conditions, both physical and mental can benefit from equine facilitated therapy at Muirfield Riding Therapy.

Physiotherapy on horseback

Physiotherapy on horseback uses the movement, warmth and rhythm of the horse as a therapy tool. As a horse walks, every step challenges its rider’s balance. This activates and strengthens the muscles of the trunk and pelvis.

A 3-dimensional movement – rocking back and forth and from side to side – is transferred to the rider’s pelvis which mirrors the movement of a normal rhythmic human walking pattern. The warmth of the horse and a gentle rolling gait can relax tight muscles while a choppier movement can increase low muscle tone.

We match our participants to their therapy pony, based on their individual needs.

The Children’s Therapeutic Riding Service

We continue to develop innovative ways of including people with various and complex mental and physical disabilities. For example, our NHS led Children’s Therapeutic Riding Service makes use of our Mechanical Horse, Oreo. This can be for assessments and for therapeutic riding sessions where getting on a live horse wouldn’t be possible, so we can ensure they get the maximum benefit for their individual condition.

Our Group physiotherapist Heather Falconer pioneered this service, which launched in 2010, and it is the largest of its kind in Scotland. Specialist treatment is designed by Heather, and participants attending these sessions show significant improvements in:

  • Core stability and muscle strength
  • Balance
  • Posture in sitting, standing and walking
  • Symmetry
  • Walking Pattern
  • Gross motor skills
  • Functional movement

Measuring Success

By enjoying a fun session on their therapy pony, children are doing physio without knowing it! A simple method is used to measure improvement in walking gait. At the start of an 8-week block of sessions, the participants are asked to walk through paint and walk along on a roll of wallpaper liner. They then do this again at the end of the 8 weeks. The photo shows the clear improvement in walking gait; the blue prints on the left are pre-session with an obvious foot drag, and the right pink footprints are after the end of the sessions, showing a much more confident, drag-free walking pattern.

My Riding Therapy Story

Let some of our participants tell you what Muirfield Riding Therapy means to them. Click on one of their stories to read more.