The Exhibition Therapeutic Riding Academy (ExTRA) is a component of The Riding Academy at The Horse Palace. ExTRA teaches horseback riding as a form of therapy to children and adults with cognitive and/or physical impairment. We run a small, quality program with one-on-one attention to our riders. Safety is our primary concern; fun and learning run a very close second.
The clients we work with can have either physical or cognitive impairments or, as is often the case, a combination of the two. The list of disabilities includes, but is not limited to: cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, strokes, arthritis, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, blindness, down syndrome, autism, hearing impairment, learning disabilities and developmental delay. Before anyone with a disability can take up riding they must first have written permission from a medical doctor.
Studies have shown that the three-dimensional movement created through a horse’s back while it is walking exactly mimics the movement of a person’s hips when walking. This movement consists of a forward and backward element, a side-to-side element and, finally, a rotational element. Sometimes, the only time individuals born with certain physical disabilities will ever feel this movement, that we all take for granted, is when they ride a correctly moving horse.
The physical benefits of therapeutic riding include: increased muscle strength, normalization of muscle tone, improved balance, increased range of motion in the joints and improved hand-eye coordination. The psycho-educational benefits include: increased attention span, improved self-esteem and increased confidence
ExTRA relies on volunteers to run our classes. Our volunteers are responsible for a number of jobs, which include: grooming and tacking up horses; leading horses in class or working one on one with the riders as an extension of the instructor; helping to set up the arena for obstacle courses and clearing the arena at the end of the day; and finally, untacking horses and putting them away when we are done.