On April, 17, 2012, we took part in an event at the Culture Hall of Ruse Municipality that gave us the opportunity to share our experience from the project Children Meet Their New Friends – the Horses and explain the positive impact on the young participants.
Over a period of 7 months, 25 children from Ruse had the opportunity to participate in the programme that included both therapeutic and recreational contact with horses. There were two target groups – children with special needs and socially vulnerable children. The project involved the collaboration of Horse Riding Club BTB – Ruse, Equilibrium and Open Society Club – Ruse and was funded by the Trust for Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe and the Open Society Institute – Sofia under the European Policies and Civic Participation programme, ‘Empowerment of the powerless in time of crisis’ project – phase 2, priority 2: ‘Improving access to community services for vulnerable groups at local, regional and national level’. Our consortium’s project proposal was approved after a competition among more than 130 applications.
Sessions were provided for the physical and emotional rehabilitation of 6 children and a young man from the Pink House (our small group home) and an additional 5 children with special needs who are clients of the Centre for Social Support in the Complex.
Children who are formally classified as being at risk frequently exhibit challenging behaviour including aggression and hyperactivity and 13 young clients of the centre for social support had the opportunity to come to terms with their problems in communication and self-awareness and to gain more self-confidence through dynamic communication with the horses, helping at the stables and not least through days spent among nature.
All partners in the project were represented at the event in order to share in the promotion of this kind of service: Stoyanka Yordanova – head of the project from the Horse Riding Club BTB – Ruse, Milena Vlahova – operational director of the Complex, Nadezhda Petrova – manager of the Pink House and our colleagues and our partners from Open Society Club – Ruse, who were facilitators of the round-table.
Milena Vlahova shared her personal observations about the multiple effects of the hypotherapy and simple contact with the horses. She explained the physical benefits of riding as follows: “Hypotherapy contributes markedly to improvement of physical health – the muscles of the horses convey 100 impulses per minute. These vibrations pass to the rider through the back of the horse providing rhythmic movement back and forth, up and down and left and right. This ensures intensive training of the muscles, controls muscle strain, prevents contractures and improves posture. Hypotherapy stimulates the development of the own awareness and control. Moving on the back of a strong animal, which is managed independently by them, the children gain self-confidence and the trust they show towards the horse subsequently turns into greater trust for people.”
Using a series of images and emotional anecdotes, Nadezhda Petrova explained the remedial power of contact with horses and stressed the significant impact of the therapeutic riding on all of the children from the Pink House. The strong emotional and physical effects on children with cerebral palsy were acknowledged by the physiotherapist Elina Todorova who could even point out signs of the transformation when looking at the photographs.
Nadya finished her presentation with a thought from the French professor, J. Lalleri: “Horse riding provides a sense of independence, provokes you to adapt to the circumstances and you come to understand that it is possible to live with pleasure, not only with stress and pain.”