Open Gait’s “therapy” is truly a “therapy” of the soul or “fun therapy”. At Open Gait we offer “fun therapy” in an open outdoor environment. The fresh air, contact with the horses, and the bonding that takes place when a child is interacting with their new equine friend melts away any stress associated with their illness.
Open Gait works with children ages 4 and up. Our “fun therapy” is designed to meet the needs of a variety of children including those diagnosed with serious illnesses and those with disabilities. We welcome children with conditions such as cancer, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, autism and a host of other conditions or chronic illnesses. Each child is considered on a case-by-case basis. If you know a child who could benefit from a visit to Open Gait please contact us at (256)468-4548
What is Therapeutic Horseback Riding?
Equine-assisted therapy activities offer physical, emotional, and social benefits. Therapeutic horseback riding opens up a new world of experiences to kids of all ages. The rhythmic nature of the horse’s gait and the animal’s body heat provide therapy, helping to strengthen the rider’s muscle tone. Other physical benefits include improvements in balance, posture, coordination, reflexes, fine and gross motor skills, and hand-eye coordination. The repetition of various activities allows the rider to concentrate on their position while trying new activities.
As the children interact with the horses, they develop respect and love for the animals. Because horses require a great deal of attention, the riders bond quickly with them as they groom, feed, and ride them. They develop responsibility, patience and compassion as they care for the horses. The excitement of riding brings new experiences and an overall sense of well-being.
Open Gait offers two major ride seasons in which children participate in sessions. We offer Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. Spring/Summer begins in March and goes until June and the Fall/Winter begins in September and goes until December. Children participate in our program once per week. Each scheduled group has a total of one to three children to allow for personal attention and utmost safety. Children learn how to groom and care for the horses in the barn, once a child is comfortable and is paired up with a horse that suits them, they will move out to the arena for riding. Eventually, depending on riding skills, the children will be able to experience trail rides. Our program also includes therapeutic games and exercises. Most children will have a leader and two side walkers during their rides. Children will also enjoy a healthy snack and on occasion, an arts and crafts time.
Open Gait is a believer in safety! We will take every measure to insure that your child, volunteers, and our equine friends are safe at all times. No child is allowed to mount horses alone or with out the proper headgear/helmet. Headgear/helmets are provided at each session.
A Typical Session
Once the children arrive at Open Gait they are welcomed into the barn by our host of equine friends and other barn critters. Each child is paired with a horse that will be his or her companion for the day. The first time a child visits (this may be scheduled separate from a group ride) will be spent on the ground, becoming familiar with the barn and the horses and learning about safety. The children are evaluated to insure we match them with an appropriate size horse and tack. They will also be given the opportunity to learn to groom and feed treats.
When ready to ride each child is accompanied by a leader and in most cases two side walkers. Great care is taken in getting riders mounted safely. The session may include stretching, games, navigating horses around cones or obstacles. Open Gait works to make it interesting for the children by adding new activities as often as possible.
After the mounted part of the session is complete, the child dismounts, and in some cases helps un-tack heir horse, feeds their horse a treat and begins snack time. On occasion a special arts and crafts time may take place.
There is no charge for Open Gait’s program. Open Gait is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. We are able to keep our barn doors open by the generosity of our volunteers and donors. All gifts to Open Gait are tax deductible. If you are interested in volunteering with us here on the farm or wish to make a donation please visit our “How you can help” tab.