Little Bits horseback riding in Edmonton

Little Bits horseback riding in Edmonton


ANNOUNCER: Here’s Victoria and
Anthony with an AMI This Week Short Cut. [music playing] We often think of horseback
riding as a fun activity to do. But children and adults from
the disability community can actually get some
really beneficial therapy from riding a horse. VICTORIA NOLAN: It allows
them to stretch, and play, and develop their tactile
and social skills. ANTHONY MCLACHLAN:
Not to mention, most everyone feels more
at ease around animals. VICTORIA NOLAN:
Alex Smyth checks into the Little Bits
Therapeutic Riding Association, located in the heart of the
city of Edmonton, to learn more. LINDA RAULT: What
words do you use? CHILD: Walk on. LINDA RAULT: Good. My name is Linda Rault. I’m the
riding program administrator for Little Bits Therapeutic
Riding Association for persons with disabilities. Because the horses
are non-judgmental, they don’t care if you
walk with an altered gait, or if you don’t talk,
or if you can’t see. Horses don’t care. They treat you as an equal. And that’s the beauty of it. Whoa. [neighing] ALEX SMYTH: Little Bits is
a busy horse therapy program with a two year waiting list. They rely on dedicated
volunteers like Lynn Johnson. LYNN JOHNSON: It’s amazing
to see the ones who come in, and they’re very
anxious and afraid. And then you get
them on the horse, and their whole
expression just changes. They relax. They sit down. And they just go with the
flow and just really enjoy themselves. [laughter] When you’re a new
volunteer, it can be very difficult when
you have different people that you’re dealing
with-when you’re dealing with maybe a child
who is afraid and cries lots versus an adult who
doesn’t want to relax and is scared to
get on the horse. So the longer you
volunteer, it’s more beneficial for
the program, I think, because then you can
widen your experiences with different riders. We have people who can’t
walk to people who are blind. It runs the whole gamut. ALEX SMYTH: With its brand
new, year round facility, they’re able to offer
better accessibility, like hinged doors that open,
creating a raised platform that allows participants to step
right into their stirrups at an even level. Once participants are
mounted, they can really enjoy the therapeutic benefits. LINDA RAULT: The riders
would do a short warm up, where they kind of
warm up their bodies and loosen up their joints. They do some few physical
exercises on the horse. I just get them moving and
relaxed and into the movement of the horse. Straight and tall. Bend your knees. Good. The horses are specially
selected for each rider, depending on their needs. So if a rider comes to us
with, say, some spasticity in their lower
legs, then we would want to find them a
horse that’s narrow so that wouldn’t
stretch them too much. A rider who had
very low tone, you might want to put on
a wide based horse– so a horse with a broader
back that gives them that base of support that
helps them to engage their core and sit up tall. I liken it to playing chess,
into matching each horse with the equipment that
that particular rider needs and the volunteer
support that they need. VOLUNTEER: Do you remember Mike? EVAN CURRIE: Yeah,
I remember Mike. VOLUNTEER: Who’s your leader? EVAN CURRIE: Kayla. LYNN JOHNSON: Depending on
the rider, you can have, obviously, one person leading
the horse and up to two side walkers, depending on
the person’s disability. ALEX SMYTH: Evan Currie,
a young participant who’s been active in the
program for 10 years, really loves the horses. EVAN CURRIE: I
think they’re cute. They’re lovable. And you always get excited,
because they can’t wait to eat food and stuff like hay. Is that him making that sound? Yeah, it’s one of my
favourite activities today. For me, instead of just
laying down at home, you know? We’re on. LINDA RAULT: It’s
so heartwarming. You just can’t
imagine the feelings. And the special words that
I often hear are I did it. I did it. And that sense of
accomplishment, the sense of empowerment that’s
given to some of our riders who sit up on a horse– if they live their
life in a wheelchair, and they are now sitting upon
these magnificent animals, and they’re actually
looking down at somebody, the empowerment they feel
is absolutely incredible. EVAN CURRIE: Oh, it’s
so much fun today. It was so much fun today. Yee-haw! VICTORIA NOLAN: Wow, it’s
amazing to see these kids riding horses like a pro. ANTHONY MCLACHLAN:
Horseback riding isn’t necessarily an activity
you think as being accessible, but it’s great to see
everyone taking part. VICTORIA NOLAN: And it sounded
like the kids got a lot out of it. But I bet the
volunteers did, as well. ANTHONY MCLACHLAN:
And they’re always looking for more volunteers
and financial aid to continue running the program. You can learn more by
visiting LittleBit.ca.

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