Sunday, June 14, 2009

Social impact of hippotherapy in Sudan

Although riding can be a solitary activity, it is normally performed in groups. Children share a common love for horses and a common experience of riding -- a good foundation on which to build a friendship.

Development of respect and love for animals.
Horses require a great deal of care and attention. Children find themselves bonding with the animals. They develop an interest in them and learn to care for them. They learn to put the needs of the horse first.

There is no doubt about it, riding a horse is fun. Children experience excitement and pleasure every time they come for a lesson.

Psychological impact of hippotherapy in Sudan

General sense of well-being.
Exercise in the fresh air of a farm/ranch, away from hospitals, doctor’s office, therapy rooms, or home help to promote a sense of well-being.

Improved self-confidence
Confidence is gained by mastering a skill normally performed by able-bodied people. The ability to control an animal much larger and stronger than oneself is a great confidence builder. Participating in events like play days add to the sense of achievement.

Increased interest in the outside world.
For those confined by a disability, the world tends to shrink in size. Riding increases interest in what is happening around the rider, as the children explore the world from the back of a horse. Even exercising becomes interesting when done on horseback.

Increased interest in one's own life.
The excitement of riding and the experiences involved stimulate the child, encouraging the rider to speak and communicate about it.

Improved risk-taking abilities.
Riding is a risk sport. The child learns to master fears though the act of staying on the horse, as well as attempting new skills and positions on the horse.

Development of patience.
Since the horse has a mind of its own, a child learns patience as he or she attempts to perform skills on the horse when the horse is not cooperating. Repetition of basic riding principles also helps to develop patience.

Emotional control and self-discipline.
The child quickly learns that an out-of-control rider means an out-of-control horse. Shouting, crying, and emotional outbursts upset the horse, which in turn frightens the rider. Children learn to control these emotions and appropriately express them.

Sense of normality.
By being able to master a skill considered difficult by the able population, the child experiences him/herself as being normal.

Expansion of the locus of control.
The child begins to view him/herself as having control over his/her world as control over a powerful animal increases.

Physical Impact of hippotherapy in Sudan

Improved balance.
As the horse moves, the rider is constantly thrown off-balance, requiring that the rider's muscles contract and relax in an attempt to rebalance. This exercise reaches deep muscles not accessible in conventional physical therapy. The three-dimensional rhythmical movement of the horse is similar to the motion of walking, teaching rhythmical patterns to the muscles of the legs and trunk. By placing the rider in different positions on the horse (therapeutic vaulting), we can work different sets of muscles. Stopping and starting the horse, changing speed and changing direction increase the benefits.

Strengthened muscles.
Muscles are strengthened by the increased use involved in riding. Even though riding is exercise, it is perceived as enjoyment, and therefore the rider has increased tolerance and motivation to lengthen the period of exercise.

Improved coordination, faster reflexes, and better motor planning.
Riding a horse requires a great deal of coordination in order to get the desired response from the horse. Since the horse provides instant feedback to every action by the rider, it is easy to know when you have given the correct cue. Repetition of patterned movements required in controlling a horse quickens the reflexes and aids in motor planning.

Stretching of tight or spastic muscles.
Sitting on a horse requires stretching of the adductor muscles of the thighs. This is accomplished by pre-stretching prior to mounting the horse, and starting off on a narrow horse, gradually working to wider and wider horses. Gravity helps to stretch the muscles in front of the leg as the rider sits on the horse without stirrups. Riding helps to stretch the heel cords and calf muscles. Stomach and back muscles are stretched as the rider is encouraged to maintain an upright posture against the movement of the horse. Arm and hand muscles are stretched as part of routine exercises on the horse and by the act of holding and using the reins.

Decreased spasticity.
Spasticity is reduced by the rhythmic motion of the horse. The warmth of the horse may aid in relaxation, especially of the legs. Sitting astride a horse helps to break up extensor spasms of the lower limbs. Holding the reins helps to break flexor spasm patterns of the upper limbs. Many of the developmental vaulting positions are also designed to break up or reduce spasticity. Fatigue also helps to decrease spasticity by producing relaxation.

Increased range of motion of the joints.
As spasticity is reduced, range of motion increases. Range of motion is also improved by the act of mounting and dismounting, tacking up, grooming, and exercises during lessons.

Reduction of abnormal movement patterns.
If spasticity is reduced and range of motion increased, it follows that abnormal movements will be inhibited. Relaxation techniques while riding also help to inhibit abnormal movement.

Improved appetite and digestion.
Like all forms of exercise, riding stimulates the appetite. The digestive tract is also stimulated, increasing the efficiency of digestion.

Sensory integration.
Riding stimulates the tactile senses both through touch and environmental stimuli. The vestibular system is also stimulated by the movement of the horse, changes in direction and speed. The olfactory system responds to the many smells involved in a stable and ranch environment. Vision is used in control of the horse. The many sounds of a ranch help to involve the auditory system. All of these senses work together and are integrated in the act of riding. In addition, pro-prioceptors (receptors that give information from our muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints) are activated, resulting in improved pro-prioception.

Miracles Sudan is a special place.

Due to its special atmosphere, Miracles Sudan riding centre is a exciting and stimulating environment for children to attain their therapy (hippotherapy) and for parents to overcome their taboos. (Parents of handicapped children in Sudan often hide their children away afraid of what society would think of them).

The horses used for this type of therapy need to have a good, calm temperament and be very well trained. Horses at Miracles Sudan riding centre have both qualities enabling children and their assistants to perform all sorts of exercises safely. More over, children are conquered by the kindness of these large animals which builds their confidence and thus increases their interaction.

Miracles Sudan’s special feature is to be a home for abandoned horses in particular, but once visited it appears clearly that it is a home for all living beings. This is a real miracle in Sudan and that is what gives it this name. Probably, this is also why this special experience is working out so well. Somehow, there is a strong bond between those rescued horses and these children as they both have been challenged to get a dignified life finding their way through this farm.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Cerebral Palsy in Sudan

A large number of children in Sudan, mostly with a Neurological developmental condition face the challenge of living within their own space, while the world outside doesn’t seem prepared to adjust according to their needs. Hence the challenge to help them face their environments only manages to add an atom of progressive development in their lives. Out of the many, one of most common and fast growing disability condition is Cerebral Palsy. This neurological condition is one of the most causative disabilities in the 21st century. Even more active in growing numbers in Africa and other under developed countries, due to poverty and illiteracy. Its has been estimated that Three children out of 1000 present with this condition in the world, while in Africa the prevalence is higher with 5 children every 1000. With regard to Sudan, there are no official statistics yet. However, at Khartoum Cheshire Home (KCH) - which is one of the few organisations that caters for the needs of children with this condition – only in the last year the number of children with Cerebral palsy registered has increased by 62%. This disability occurs due to poor prenatal, natal and post-natal care in pregnant mothers and infants. Once Cerebral Palsy has been inflicted upon a child treating the condition it self is redundant. Hence teaching parents and children how to manage with the given condition is the focus of attention.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hippotherapy in Sudan

A number of modalities apply in helping children with special needs, Hippotherapy being one of the growing and effective ones among them. This term literally means “treatment with the help of horses” and so far it is one of the most complementary modalities used in therapy. Hippotherapy has a deeper and wider positive impact on disabled children. In other words, Hippotherapy, in general, is not just “moving on a horse”; it implicates a lot more actions, re-actions and inter-actions, especially the way it is practised in Sudan.

This new experience helps children with special needs build self-confidence, communication abilities and most of all the sense of independence.
Families also benefit from this particular modality as they meet each other during Hippo therapy sessions and discuss about the day-to-day challenges their children encounter. This interaction is an important factor for the real success of the therapy, given that disabilities are still taboo in Sudan .