This centre is open to service users and their families and operates as a New Directions Hub which implies that people with disabilities external to St. Joseph’s Foundation may avail of the service, subject to availability.
The main features of the Equestrian Centre include:
- Horse Boy method – Equine Therapy.
- Accredited Training;
- Equine Assisted Learning,
- Equine Care,
- Animal Therapy,
- Horse Riding;
- Occupational Work like Therapy.
- Horses and Autism.
The Horse Boy Method offered in Liskennett is much more than just a physical experience. While the movement of the horse is beneficial for improving circulation, muscle control, and co-ordination, there is also a strong bond between humans and horses. Humans have used horses for centuries. Initially for hunting, to carry, to farm, to pull, to travel, to entertain, in warfare, in sport etc.., So it is not surprising that we now use horses for therapy. Horses are companion animals. They look to their riders/handlers for direction and affection.
They are attuned to the smallest movement, attitude, and emotion; people cannot hide anything from a horse. Horses can tell if you are angry, nervous, happy, excited, tense, or relaxed and they respond accordingly. They aren’t demanding.
They want to understand you and for you to understand them. Because of the trust they give, their fine-tuned responses, and desire to please, they are extremely effective in creating a bond with autistic riders that encourages communication and interaction.
Learn to Communicate and Interact
Autistic riders/handlers learn to communicate verbally and physically with their horse, and they can see the immediate result of their communication when the horse reacts. They learn to focus on something outside themselves, an important step for autistic people.
They also learn to communicate and interact with other people as they work with instructors and volunteers who are leading the horse or walking beside them. They learn to respond to verbal cues from the instructor as they complete specific tasks. Riding horses is good exercise and a whole lot of fun.
Most importantly, children and adults with autism learn to connect with horses, building a trusting relationship that is fun, rewarding, and life-changing.
However, the environment of the horse can provide more than just horse riding. The programmes’ offered in Liskennett in the equine environment to people with disabilities can teach companionship, responsibility, leadership, vocational, educational skills as well as offer competition venues in the different horse disciplines. Riding a horse provides a unique and often profound recreational or leisure activity for many people.
Building a relationship
Children and Adults with autism who interact with their horse may extend this to others and to form meaningful relationships with people. Building a relationship with an animal is very rewarding in many aspects; for a person with an emotional, social or psychological disability, the trust and loyalty of an animal demonstrates to the person how important they are and then they may extend these attributes to personal relationships. Horses also help people feel in control of their situation because there is a direct correlation between action and reaction.
To learn how to care for and ride a horse, you must also be able to communicate efficiently with the horse and the instructor. In this way, riding is a very social activity, but is less daunting to people who are uncomfortable in social situations. However, the experience of riding a horse is very different. Riding helps to empower people and enables them to connect on a personal level.
The sometimes unpredictable nature of animals and situations also creates a real-life environment in which students will be able to confront fears and make adjustments to situations beyond their control.