Therapeutic Riding with ‘Hairy Henry’


Posted on: 7th July, 2014

Category: Health & Lifestyle

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 in building a trusting relationship with the rider.

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. Benefits include physical (such as improved muscle tone and motor skills), emotional (such as improved self-esteem and reduced stress levels) and cognitive (such as improved concentration skills and learning by experience).

Horses make this form of therapy so special because they are non-judgemental and give immediate and honest feedback on our actions. The attention and companionship a horse offers is unconditional and genuine. Experiences with horses often have a significant meaning for us and can be very empowering.

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.

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.

In summary, Therapeutic Riding can significantly enhance the rider’s emotional and physical well-being. It offers opportunities for positive experiences which can trigger lasting changes. Many times, Henry and Winnie have been able to put a smile on someone’s face by simply offering their warmth and softness for a big hug.

You can contact Sandra on 087 9389867. Sandra’s website is or follow her on facebook:

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