SMART has created a therapeutic carriage driving program for individuals with disabilities that allows them to participate actively and successfully in our program and provides the participants with a real sense of accomplishment and achievement. Carriage driving is an activity that involves riding in and actually driving a horse that is pulling a 4 wheel carriage. This hands-on activity opens up the world of horses to those who may be unable or unwilling to participate in therapeutic riding due to weight limits, balance issues, fear of heights, sensory processing challenges or other issues. Our carriage is also wheelchair accessible and will accommodate those individuals that use wheelchairs and cannot easily transfer from the wheelchair. The carriage has a battery operated lift platform that is used to safely provide access to the carriage, where safety devices are used to secure the wheelchair in place.
Therapeutic driving is all about imparting knowledge of safety, care of horses, grooming, harnessing and driving skills to the participants. However, the entire lesson process provides:
- A physically demanding recreational and sporting experience with a horse.
- The intellectual and psychological challenges of working in harmony and with empathy with a horse.
- The development of self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment as various tasks and skills are learned.
- The improvement in the development of cognitive skills such as task sequencing, ability to follow directions, spatial and environmental awareness, left/right differentiation, directional awareness, motor planning, decision making and impulse control.
- The development of social skills and relationships based on mutual respect, trust and empathy with other participants, the volunteers and instructors, and of course, the horse.
- The development of life-enhancing skills that are attractive to employers and are required to become happy and productive members of society.
Therapeutic carriage driving also offers many of the same benefits as therapeutic riding:
- Improved eye-hand coordination
- Improved motor skills
- Improved balance and muscular strength
- Improved posture and upper body strength
- Improved circulation and respiration
- Relaxation through rhythmic movement
- Increased attention span
- Enhanced communication skills
- Development of trusting relationships
- Improved self-discipline
- Having fun!
Group lessons are set up on a weekly basis during the cooler months of October - May with four participants in each 1 hour lesson. The Instructor and student driver both have a set of reins, with the instructor being in control of the horse as much as necessary through the learning process. Safety is of the utmost importance and each student progresses at their own pace with individualized goals.