Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Natural horsemanship

My instructor Maria Hurley is demonstrating what is called "natural horsemanship" . She uses the pole as an extension of her hand and body and as the pony progresses, she will use only her hands and body to give directions. This enables greater trust and communication between horse and human. The instructor can give directions to the horse in this way during her lessons, such as when wanting to speed up into a trot.

I am becoming more aware about how important it is to bond with the horse as I ride or work during hippotherapy. I get so focused on the child and my work that I ignore the horse (which is normal) but when there is no client on the horse, I am spending more time stroking and talking to them.

I have seen misinformation on other hippotherapy websites that I will try to clarify a bit here- hippotherapy is performed by registered/licensed occupational, physical and language therapists. If the facility is NARHA (where I work it is not) certified the therapist must be certified via the American Hippotherapy Association ( I did this on my own). Therefore, some therapists are not AHA certified.

If I were to work at a NAHRA facility, I would be required to have a certified NARAHA instructor leading or working nearby as I worked. If I were to manage to get certified as a therapeutic riding instrucotr (on top of all my other certifications!!), I would be able to work independently at any facility. My riding lessons might help me achieve this as a long term goal. But there is a lot to learn to become a NARHA riding instructor, especially if you are like me, a New York City girl relatively new to riding (its only been 2 1/2 years).

Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/L author of, The Recycling Occupational Therapist

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