By Violet Barnett, Communications Intern

Cerebral palsy is a congenital disorder, and the 200,000 people diagnosed with it each year experience symptoms of disordered muscle tone, posture, and movement. The disorder begins to cause these imbalances at birth and they continue for life. At Giant Steps, approximately 10% of our clients live with cerebral palsy. For riders with cerebral palsy, riding is not just a recreational activity, but an effective form of treatment. The games and exercises done in lessons reap cognitive benefits including improved attention, spatial planning, and visual coordination. Additionally, the physical benefits of therapeutic riding include improved posture, trunk control, balance, flexibility, and respiratory control as well as the reduction of abnormal muscle tone.

Above all else, therapeutic riding has an extreme impact on the confidence of riders. Unlike some riders in the Giant Steps’ community, riders with cerebral palsy often use wheelchairs in their daily lives. Equine therapy grants riders the ability to move freely, and with this a boost of self-esteem unachievable without a bond with a horse.

Says the mom of a daughter with cerebral palsy, “Our rider has gained confidence in riding and in herself, as well as greater core stability, better gait, and a deep love of horses, especially Mr. Fizz. Giant Steps is more than a place to take our daughter to ride weekly. It’s a sense of community for our family. Our involvement in Giant Steps gives us the feeling we are part of something great, something that gives to those in need, and really helps change peoples’ lives.”

To learn more about cerebral palsy and World Cerebral Palsy Day, visit https://worldcpday.org/

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