LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Work continues on a new horse arena for programs that help children with disabilities. You may have heard of Texas Tech University's Therapeutic Riding Center before. They provide therapy for those who need help learning to walk, speak, and more.
Right now, they do most of their work outside, but when it's cold or dusty, that can be a problem. So, they're very excited for this expansion. "That's what's really exciting about this project, for the first time we'll have a facility especially for therapeutic riding with accessibility in mind," Program Director Heather Hernandez said.
Hernandez says that right now, they can only use an indoor facility once a week, so most of the time they take little ones for a walk around a trail that's outside. The problem is that sometimes, conditions outside can be bad for the riders. "Some of our riders are more susceptible to the wind and the elements and just can get sick really easily, so we want a nice, clean, safe environment for them," Hernandez said.
The therapy offered at the center helps in many different ways, but it all centers around the ride, utilizing the movement to work on balance, core control, the senses, even speech.
Riding a horse moves the body like you're walking, so that movement can essentially teach you how to walk, but the seat bones are also major receptors for the senses, so stimulating those receptors can prime the whole system to be able to process speech and more.
"We've seen riders say their first words on a horse, which is pretty incredible, or riders that weren't walking that were able to walk because of the input," Hernandez said.
She says one of the best parts about the program is that students learn how to do the therapy program and can then share that any where in the world.
"That's one thing about being part of Texas Tech, we're all about the education. There aren't a whole lot of universities in the U.S. or the world that house a therapeutic riding center, so we can train people to do what we do. It just makes what our center does, the scope of who it reaches, exponential," Hernandez said.
The arena is just phase one of the building project. It should be up and ready by the end of summer. Phase two and three include classrooms and horse stalls.
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