Aha! Adaptive Horses And Arts
Curry brushes dipped in paint… drumming to the beat of hooves…horseshoes in clay… dancing on horseback… the drama of discovery and confidence… Aha!
VSA Vermont presents arts activities in music, drama, dance and visual arts to children and youths who are gaining strength and confidence through therapeutic horseback riding lessons, at barns throughout Vermont. Arts activities allow children to claim and celebrate with their own best expressive means, the important experiences they have with horses and to forge relationships together with others having similar experiences. Staff and volunteers at participating barns learn ways to use the arts to enhance the effectiveness of their programs.
Visual arts activities allow children to handle parts of the horse’s equipment including horseshoes, grooming tools, even horsehair in ways that allow them to reflect on their experiences of riding and gain confidence in handling the materials. Music allows children to carry over the rhythmic and bilateral benefits into their own personal spaces, to experiment with pacing before or after they have ridden. Movement and dance allows them to extend their bodies, their thoughts and their feelings, both while riding and after, to remember, to explore new movements, and to identify further with the horses themselves. Drama engages children in stories, ways to identify the horses as beings with histories and personalities, with strengths and vulnerabilities they may also share.
To find out about opportunities for your child or for your therapeutic riding program, or to teach or volunteer, contact VSA Vermont.
At Champlain Adaptive Mounted Program (CHAMP), children made the materials of the barn the tools of their own expression, painting with curry brushes, creating clay imprints with horseshoes and keeping visual dairies about their experiences.
At High Horses Therapeutic Riding Program, children responded to music during their riding and also used instruments before and during their lessons.
Example: E. is a child who has difficulty sitting up and does not use spoken language to communicate. She began her ride lying down on the horse. At first our instructor walked in front of the horse playing a flute. E. raised her head to look. Next a band of bells was placed over her hand. She raised her arm to sound the bells and followed her ability to make sound with that arm up to a sitting position, which she maintained even after wobbling.
Her occupational therapist said, "This was by far the best ride E. has had. She was more vocal, her head was up longer, and she was more interested. This was an incredible day for E." Her mother said, "It’s amazing to see her doing four things at once. The bells were wonderful!"