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Psychological Dimensions Of Therapeutic Ridding

In Greek mythology, the goddess Athena is the Damasippos=horse tamer or Chalinitis=holder of the reins, who taught humans the taming of horses or, seen from another perspective, the "taming of man s own self, enabling him to enlist, to establish and harmonize his potential in interaction with the horse. In therapeutic riding, ² when talking about taming, we do not mean imposition and oppression, but rather a systematization of the various opportunities arising from the relationship with the horse, which is a relationship of honesty, self-knowledge, reciprocity and mutual respect.

The participant in therapeutic riding learns to recognize and respect his own limits,focus his efforts, assume responsibilities and initiatives and organize his feelings and relationships . He learns about himself but not only for himself. Modern approaches to therapeutic riding go much further, viewing man and horse interact as a living system capable of coordinated action and creative expression (Shpitsberg & Karpenkova, 2000). ³ The horse used for therapeutic riding has to go "beyond his natural instinct ", to accept an often" fragile and uncoordinated "rider (Good Shepherd Academy, 2006). At the same time the individual is called upon to show the same understanding as he too is called upon to comprehend the horse's behavior and respond to it in a creative way . Thus, the participant is introduced gradually into a creative relationship in order to realize the potential that can arise via the living system man - horse.

Within this living system, the individual is encouraged to participate actively: Just like the horse is an honest and reliable partner, so the person needs to be honest with his own difficulties, develop his trust in the others around him (horse, therapists) and to recognize the needs of the horse as well as his own (Good Shepherd Academy, 2006). Often, people do not have experience in forming bonds of trust with others and tend to distrust their own self and their abilities therefore, avoiding any "difficult " situation. The relationships created within the "context" of therapeutic riding is a "social microcosm. " The participant's problems will surface soon enough "in the here and now of the therapeutic relationship", allowing for a direct physical and mental comprehension and management.

The rhythmical movement of the horse has been considered as a form of regression therapy: a regression back into the safety of childhood, a means of release from all types of frustrations. At the same time contact with the horse can also bring to the surface various insecurities, which are not caused by the horse, but activated upon contact with it, shedding light on our vulnerable points (Melhem, 2000). Therapeutic riding provides a controlled framework within which individuals can learn to see, manage and change their dysfunctional patterns. The therapist as a "the major third-party of the system" who is there to coordinate and support the activities of the individual, to help him develop a relationship with the horse and through this to recognize and work out the difficulties that stem from that relationship. . He will also support the individual in his effort to understand his role in this relationship with the horse, to organize his thoughts and feelings and then to apply this new knowledge to his other every day activities: Learning how to change through our relationship with the horse, we can then transfer and apply this knowledge to other situations and so change them in a positive way.

Therefore, there is no need to be surprised by the large number of studies which refer to the psychological effectiveness of therapeutic riding. The effectiveness of therapeutic riding in improving the physical condition has been documented for over 50 years (North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA), 2006), but its influence on the individual s psychological and mental state began to come to the forefront in the late 80's (Spink, 1993) through the successful results with cases of depression, attachment difficulties, autism, anxiety disorders, addictions, hyperactivity, learning difficulties and various other disorders.

The positive results reported in the published work are diverse²: Increasing access to feelings, stress reduction, relaxation, development of a positive self-image and self-confidence, conquering new cognitive skills, increased awareness of internal and external reality, positive behavioral changes, increased ability to regulate behavior, improvement of communication skills. Furthermore enhances the socialisation process in individuals at risk of social marginalization (institutionalization, juvenile deliquency, chronic unemployment, drug addiction, substance abuse, alcoholism, eating disorders etc.) as well as the process of self identity and the sense of belonging.

For individuals who do not respond to traditional therapies provided within the classical clinical framework, contact with the horse makes treatment more attractive and provides incentives and encouragement to pursue goals that may once have been considered unachievable ³ using different methods depending on the individual's capabilities and his mental and physical resources. As it is stated in the philosophy of the Academy of Good Shepherd (2006), since survival instinct exists in all beings, the power for healing exists within all beings. In the field of therapeutic riding, man's natural capabilities for development and treatment.are activated and cultivated. The horse is not a non-logical entity (α-λογο=no logic, no speech) It has its own logic and its own reasoning, or rather can gain a strong "say" in clinical practice, a say which is therapeutic and liberating to the potential of the individual. And as it is wisely symbolized in traditional tales, horse and rider begin a journey together through which the later will come to know himself, body, soul and spirit, and will finally discover his own true identity and with it find harmony with the world around him.

Sophia Triandafyllidou,

Psychologist, PhD University of Crete

Bibliography

  1. Βλ. και το άρθρο της Γιαλούρη, Α. (2001). Ίπποι Εξαίρετοι στη Μεγάλη Πομπή. Το Άλογο στη Φύση, τον Μύθο, την Τέχνη. Εφ. Καθημερινή (Ένθετο), 08/02/2001, σσ. 17-20
  2. Με τον όρο θεραπευτική ιππασία, εννοούμε κάθε πρόγραμμα ιππασίας που υιοθετεί δραστηριότητες σχετικές με άλογα για την αντιμετώπιση των σωματικών και ψυχολογικών δυσκολιών των συμμετεχόντων, στελεχώνεται δε από εξειδικευμένους επαγγελματίες διαφόρων σχετικών τομέων (φυσικοθεραπευτές, εργοθεραπευτές, ψυχολόγους κ.α.)
  3. Shpitsberg, I & Karpenkova, I. (2000). Therapeutic Riding. New Possibilities of Body – Oriented Psychotherapies. Proceedings of the 10th International Therapeutic Riding Congress, April 2000, Angers – Samur, France, Riding for the Disabled International.
  4. Έχει παρατηρηθεί ότι τα άλογα έχουν επίγνωση των αναγκών των αναβατών τους και πολλές φορές κάνουν προσαρμογές στην κίνηση τους, προκειμένου να μην πέσει ο αναβάτης τους (βλ. Good Shepherd Riding Academy)
  5. Good Shepherd Riding Academy
  6. Yalom, I. (2002). Το Δώρο της Ψυχοθεραπείας. Εκδ. Άγρα, Αθήνα, σσ. 74-95.
  7. Ενδεικτικά, βλ. Rivy, B. (2000). Therapeutic Riding and Autism. Proceedings of the 10th International Therapeutic Riding Congress, April 2000, Angers – Samur, France, Riding for the Disabled International.
  8. Melhem, M. (2000). Dare to be Afraid. Proceedings of the 10th International Therapeutic Riding Congress, April 2000, Angers – Samur, France, Riding for the Disabled International.
  9. Goldbeter – Merinfeld, E. (1994). Ο Μείζων Τρίτος του Συστήματος. Τετράδια Ψυχιατρικής, v.45, σσ. 34-38.
  10. NARHA (1998). Understanding Riding Therapy. (6/98). NARHA Guide. Denver.
  11. Spink, J. (1993). Developmental Riding Therapy. A Team Approach to Assessment and Treatment. Tucscon, AZ: Therapy Skill Builders.
  12. Για μια σύνοψη των ευρυμάτων μέχρι το 2000, βλ. Proceeding of the 10th International Therapeutic Riding Congress, April 2000, Angers – Samur, France, Riding for the Disabled International.
  13. Βλ. Heine, B. (1997). Introduction to Hippotherapy. Stirdes magazine, NARHA, April 1997, vol. 3, no 2.
  14. Good Shepherd Riding Academy, όπ.π.
  15. Βλ. Cooper, J. (1983). Fairy Tales. Allegories of Inner Life. Aquarian Press.
 
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