Brain injury rehabilitation centre Calvert Reconnections has highlighted how equine activities are delivering positive, life-changing outcomes for participants.
Calvert Reconnections is the UK’s first acquired brain injury (ABI) rehabilitation centre combining traditional clinical therapies with physical activity in the outdoors. Amongst the range of facilities available at Reconnections is the Lake District Calvert Trust Riding Centre, a British Horse Society approved riding school which offers riding and carriage driving for people of all abilities.
The stables are purpose-built with indoor and outdoor arenas, viewing gallery, state of the art lifts and electronic hoists. For those unable to ride, there are adapted wheelchair accessible traps.
The benefits of equine activities in brain injury rehabilitation are well recognised through independent research.
A study by the University of Basel found that animal assisted activities, including the use of horses, can significantly improve the social behaviour and communication skills of patients suffering from brain injuries.
The research found that that the benefits of equine activities are attributed to several factors, one of which is how highly motivated patients are to care for the horse. The effect is seen particularly strongly in people who are hard to reach through standard therapies, either because of issues with social interaction or problems with cognitive function and verbal communication.
Further research from the US supports the positive outcomes of equine activities. Researchers found that the movement of the horse as a person is riding at a simple walk gives them balance, coordination and self-confidence. Furthermore, when a person is riding a horse, the rhythm and motion is therapeutic; the body gains strength through its adjustment to the horse’s gait.
Calvert Reconnections’ equine activities are tailored to the participant’s individual rehabilitation programme and delivered by qualified instructors working closely with the centre’s clinicians.
Stables Manager Henri Carew, a qualified British Horse Society instructor and Riding for the Disabled Coach, has over 20 years’ experience working with children and adults of varying disabilities through the Calvert Trust.
Commenting on the benefits of equine activities, Henri said:
“The vocational opportunities for participants are having a hugely positive impact on their life. It motivates them to get out of bed in the morning to look after the horses and creates a structure to their day. They become part of our team and some go on to support other riders which is so empowering.
“This all takes the focus off the participant’s own challenges and on to the care of the horses and other riders.”
Claire Appleton, Head of Service at Calvert Reconnections echoed Henri’s thoughts.
“Equine activities are an important part of our service and the outcomes to date have been outstanding.
“Most participants enjoy this type of activity so much they don’t even consider it as a part of their rehabilitation programme!”
Calvert Reconnections actively seeks to incorporate a wide range of outdoor activities into each participant’s rehabilitation programme. This may range from reflective activities such as fishing, bird watching or a nature walk to higher adventure activities such as horse riding, canoeing, rock-climbing and abseiling – all closely assessed and graded to a person’s interests and functional abilities. Importantly, participants are involved in every aspect of the activities they undertake. They complete meaningful tasks, from concept to completion, in a real-world setting.
The centre is currently taking referrals. For further information please go to www.calvertreconnections.org.uk