Therapeutic Carriage Driving
By Amanda Bubb
As horse lovers, we all know the power of the horse. Our horses are our friends and confidants. They offer us comfort and bring us joy. They provide a fun opportunity for recreation and exercise. They can also challenge us and take us out of our comfort zone. The horses that partner with people in the equine-assisted services industry to serve hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities around the country and the world do all of that and more. The Equine-Assisted Services industry includes many different programs like therapeutic riding, interactive vaulting, equine-assisted mental health and learning, and therapeutic carriage driving.
What Does Therapeutic Carriage Driving Have to Offer and Who is it For?
Therapeutic carriage driving offers children and adults with physical, mental, and/or emotional disabilities the rewards of working with and directing a horse or pony while driving from a carriage seat or in their own wheelchair in a carriage that has been modified, or specifically built, to accommodate them. Carriage driving gives our students a riding alternative, which opens up the world of horses to those who may be unable to ride due to weight, balance, fatigue, allergies, asthma, fear of heights, the inability to sit astride, or other issues. It can also provide the student with a unique movement experience.
Therapeutic Driving is about imparting knowledge of safety, horses, harnessing, and driving skills to children and adults. It also helps teach teamwork, improved speech and communication, and a greater understanding of cause and effect relationships. The physical benefits to our students include increased core strength and posture, improved balance, and greater fine and gross motor skills development among others. All of these benefits add up to meaning that participating in therapeutic carriage driving can help our participants achieve greater levels of general fitness, independence, confidence and self-esteem, not to mention instilling a love of horses and a sport that many of us hold dear!
Reins of Life, Inc Therapy Program
Since beginning the therapeutic carriage driving program at Reins of Life, Inc. in November of 2019 we have been able to offer it, either as a one-time experience or as weekly lessons to almost 100 individuals with disabilities. These students have included children as young as six years old to adults in their late seventies with diagnoses ranging from mild to quite involved, including learning disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, cerebral palsy, autism and many others.
In these lessons we have seen students go from refusal to participate to eagerness and and not wanting to have their lessons end. We have seen students get physically stronger and make gains that had been unachievable in traditional therapies. I have been in the cart with students when we spotted deer, wild ducks and colorful fall leaves on a drive through the woods. Experiencing that through the eyes of someone who, due to mobility issues, is rarely out in nature is a magical occurrence and one which I wish everyone had the opportunity to enjoy.
To learn more about Therapeutic Carriage Driving as well as the other programs offered at Reins of Life please feel free to check out our website at www.reinsoflife.org or reach out to me at Amanda.firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International at www.pathintl.org to find a program near you!
Amanda Bubb is a PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor, Interactive Vaulting Instructor, Therapeutic Driving Instructor and Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning at Reins of Life, Inc., a Premier Accredited Center in Northern Indiana. Amanda has worked in the Equine-Assisted Services industry for more than 15 years. Amanda is also a PATH Intl. Mentor and Associate Site Visitor and Certified Horsemanship Association Level 4 Equine Facility Manager and Assistant Clinician.