How It Works

Lucky Harvest is about overcoming limitations, leaving fears behind, communication, and learning to ride.

Equine-assisted therapy and therapeutic riding are proven methods of improving a person’s physical, intellectual and social well-being. For references for the benefits described below, please see Studies and Research.

The benefits
The benefits of therapeutic riding are well documented medically. We have seen significant improvement in areas such as self-esteem, muscle tone and strength, balance, coördination, spasticity reduction, behaviour, attention span, social awareness, and speech.

While distinct limitations exist, therapeutic riding can offer a means for substantial improvement for people affected by autism, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, brain injuries, developmental delays, learning disabilities, emotional disabilities or trauma, post-traumatic stress syndrome, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Prader Willi syndrome, amputations, post-surgery recovery, sight impairments, spina bifida, spinal cord injuries, stroke, and many other conditions. For each disability there is a face, and for each face there is help—a horse, an instructor, and an individualized programme that will help the person improve his or her quality of life.

Why the horse?
Physiologically, the horse’s soothing rhythm, warmth, and three-dimensional movement patterns provide riders who have limited mobility the opportunity to exercise their back, trunk and pelvic muscles in a way that more closely simulates walking than can be achieved through other means. The singular way that a horse’s pelvis rotates during walking provides a unique sensory input to the rider.  The horse’s movement is variable, rhythmic, and repetitive, and results in responses of physical motion in the rider that are similar to the patterns of the human pelvis while walking.

The variability of the horse’s gait enables the therapist to grade the degree of sensory input to the client, and then utilize this movement in combination with other treatment strategies to achieve desired results. Exercises, stretching and games while mounted all help engage both the physical responses and communication. Clients respond enthusiastically to this enjoyable experience in a calm, natural setting.

The physical results from riding include better flexibility, greater strength, and improved posture and balance. Mentally and physically, riding allows the client to participate in a normalizing activity that yields for most a greater sense of independence and empowerment. For the rider, self-confidence and self-esteem usually grow right along with muscle strength. These results are achieved through a method that is a new challenge for many people with disabilities who are tired of the routine of physiotherapy in a clinical setting.

Communicating with horses and riding give something very special psychologically to a person with disabilities or physical or emotional set-backs — a sense of control and accomplishment. The feeling of achievement that comes from riding a horse is strong medicine.

Who comes?
Many of the riders who participate in our programme are referred to us by doctors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and other medical professionals, or simply by family members or friends who have heard of the benefits our programme provides. We have received referrals from Ste-Justine’s Hospital, the Montreal Children’s Hospital, Le Centre de Réadaptation de la Montérégie, as well as various CLSCs. We provide group sessions—for schools, institutions and some families.

Although most potential riders do not have any contra-indications that would prevent them from participating in our programme, we do require a medical evaluation from the attending physician, attesting to the client’s ability to undergo equine therapy. The abilities of each rider are as varied as the individuals themselves. Two riders who have the same diagnosis may have very different limitations and abilities, requiring very different programmes. One of the advantages of therapeutic riding is that we can vary the exercises, games and the location used for each lesson, to accommodate each rider’s needs.

For people who are deemed by their doctor or our instructors to be unable to ride—for instance, because they are unable to maintain a sitting position—we offer sessions of acquainting with horses, learning about them and their care, grooming, and perhaps leading and other interaction.

There is no age restriction. We have worked with riders as young as 2 years of age, and we have had riders in their 60s, and even older. Therapeutic riding can provide benefits to individuals of all ages. And so can equine-assisted therapy on the ground.

Hippotherapy is a physical, occupational or speech and language therapy treatment strategy that utilizes equine movement. This strategy has evolved over 30 years. Through education and clinical experience, physical, occupational and speech and language therapists continue to refine the use of hippotherapy as part of an integrated rehabilitation approach. Using the movement of the horse as the strategy of choice has resulted in improved functional outcomes for a wide variety of clients. These positive results ensure that hippotherapy will continue to be used in treatment for many years to come. Hippotherapy may be provided only by certified physiotherapists.
Note: Unfortunately, at the present time Lucky Harvest is unable to offer hippotherapy.

©  2003–2017 by The Lucky Harvest Project / Le Projet Récolte Chanceuse.
All rights reserved.