Thursday, October 12, 2006

Horseback rides give injured soldiers therapy

Horseback rides give injured soldiers therapy
Gait gets wounded to regain strength, muscle endurance
October 12, 2006


After a therapeutic riding session at Ft. Myer, Va., military base, instructor Mary Jo Beckman, second from left, reaches for the crutches for Army Spec. Nick Paupore of Traverse City, who began riding therapy after shrapnel from an armor-piercing bomb clipped his leg. Today, his above-the-knee amputation requires him to move his hips more to walk on a prosthetic. Riding helped with that, but it also forced him to keep a straight posture and develop his core muscles. (Photos by HEATHER WINES/Gannett News Service)
Why ride?
Horseback riding improves balance and strength, therapists say. When people sit on a walking horse, their bodies are being moved as if walking normally and being strengthened to walk independently.
Therapeutic benefits of riding include:
• Improved stability from strengthened abdominal and lower back muscles.
• Proper posture alignment.
• Increased strength and endurance.
• Improved balance, enabling more efficient use of prosthetic limbs.
• Development of equilibrium reactions in the trunk by sitting on a continuously moving surface.
• Improved coordination and rhythm of rider's pelvic area.

Army Spec. Natasha McKinnon
Guiding Minnie, a white mare, around a corral at Ft. Myer, Va., McKinnon's upper body rocked in tandem with the horse's gait as if the soldier were walking. The repeated exercise has helped her develop the strength, endurance and balance she needs to walk on a prosthetic limb since losing her lower leg in Iraq last year.


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