Therapeutic riding offers lasting effects to emotional and physical wellbeing


Posted on: 20th January, 2015

Category: Features

Contributor: West Cork People

‘Hairy Henry’ Therapeutic Riding is named after one of the two wonderful therapy horses that work with Sandra Schmid, a qualified Therapeutic Riding Coach, out of a small yard near Bantry.

Therapeutic Riding is accessible to children and adults of all abilities and ages. The horse is used as a partner in the therapeutic process and works alongside a Therapeutic Riding Coach. The focus lies on building a trusting relationship between the horse, the coach and the individual.

The unique neuromuscular stimulation whilst riding and handling the horse promotes balance, improved posture, confidence, independence and coordination. It improves spatial awareness and has lasting positive effects on emotional wellbeing.

Therapeutic Riding Sessions are designed to meet each individual’s particular needs, focusing on areas such as Education; Emotional wellbeing; Stress-reduction; Behavioural management; Social skills training; Sensory processing; Motor skills training; Physical fitness.

Children and adolescents benefit especially from Therapeutic Riding, as the horse can meet their needs for affection, confidence, companionship, unconditional joy and warmth in a therapeutic context. The horse offers opportunities for developing empathy, responsibility and a sense of importance in life.

Back-riding, where a trained and experienced rider, usually the Therapeutic Riding Coach, is seated behind the child on horseback, is offered to children who benefit from more intensive support. In particular, children with Autism often appreciate being held tight in the back-rider’s arms whilst riding together, as it can have a hugely calming effect.

What makes Therapeutic Riding different from a conventional riding lesson is the therapeutic context where the focus lies on the rider as an individual – the majority of sessions are held on a one-to-one basis. The Therapeutic Riding Coach helps riders to access the benefits of the tactile contact with the horse and the rhythmic movement whilst riding.

A Therapeutic Riding session lasts 45 minutes. It starts with meeting and grooming the horse. If the rider does not want to mount the horse straight away, there are many fun games and activities to do with the horse from the ground. The rider may then want to progress to mounting, sitting on the horse, being carried by the horse, to eventually riding independently. The session might also include yoga-based exercises, breathing and relaxation exercises, games on horseback and riding along the Nature Trail.

Therapeutic Riding uses a person-centred approach, ensuring beneficial effects to riders of all levels of ability, including riders with a diagnosis of Autism, ADHD, Dyspraxia, Dementia etc.

It is important to mention that you do not necessarily have to ride – engaging with the horse from the ground calls for a wide range of skills, whilst the company and close contact the horse offers have a relaxing effect.

Sandra Schmid completed her training as a Therapeutic Riding Coach in 2013. She has worked with horses for the last 30 years and has been working with her horses Henry and Winnie in a therapeutic context since 2007. Sandra is also a professional registered Social Worker and has been working in this field for the last 16 years. At ‘Hairy Henry’s’, Sandra combines her skills set and professional experience in working therapeutically with horses and people.

For a free confidential telephone consultation and to book a session, please contact Sandra on 087 9389867.

The website is or follow on facebook/hairyhenryireland.

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