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Recreation and Leisure class at the EquiCenterReveal Caption

Recreation and Leisure Studies class posing with a horse and staff member from the EquiCenter's "Therapeutic Riding" program.

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  • 2018-11-01
  • Anthony Arnone

Looking Toward Alternative Methods of Recreation Therapy

The Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies sends its "Facilitative Techniques in Therapeutic Recreation" class to observe an alternative method of recreation therapy.

Recreation and Leisure Lecturer Sarah Demmin and her class visited the EquiCenter in Honoeye Falls to observe the facility and their Therapeutic Riding program earlier this semester, a program that works on building both physical strength and social skills for children with disabilities through horseback riding and horse grooming.

"The Therapeutic Riding program provides its participants with a form of physical movement and therapeutic gains that extend beyond what physical therapy can do," Demmin said. "It provides them a leisure activity that can build confidence and self-esteem, further developing speech and language."

Students observe program planning and implementation, firsthand facilitation techniques, leadership skills, and other critical tasks of a therapeutic recreation specialist. Students started with a tour of the facility before observing a riding lesson. They then spoke to the instructors and parents of the children to hear about the impact this alternative method of therapy can have.

"There was a young boy who couldn't walk, but after he was helped onto the horse, the trainers helped him learn basic techniques and got him moving," Taylor Chillufo '19 said. "Not only did we see the impact first hand, the parents of the program seem really happy with the results."

Chillufo, a recreation and leisure studies major, grew up with a seizure disorder and attended a similar program when she was younger. She believes these programs have experienced tremendous growth as they have been embraced by the field of therapeutic recreation. While riding is the main draw of the program, the bond the participants build with their horse is just as important for therapy.

"I was so attached to my horse and grew an incredible bond with it while riding," Chillufo said. "I believe the grooming portion only strengthens that bond, and I can't stress enough how much that helped me when I was younger."

While the students get an insider's look into a therapeutic recreation program and all the effort that goes into running one, there is one specific takeaway Demmin hopes the students grasped.

"In watching a child ride a horse and hear about their progress over the past two years, students gain a better understanding of classroom concepts," Demmin said. "Just as important, they start to develop an appreciation of the impact that they may have one day as professionals."

Last Updated 5/26/21

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