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Leave it to the horses
Written by Sejung Park | Published. 2021.10.31 23:30 | Count : 482


If we think of rehabilitation, we tend to think of a rigid hospital facility. However, there are more than just cold hospital buildings in the world of rehabilitation. One of the friendly programs is rehabilitation with horses. Before we begin, I would like to introduce some facts about horses.


[Image of a horse named “Summer” and the view behind the stable, photo by Sejung Park]

Horses were one of the most important domestic animals for humans. These animals mostly participated in hunting, war, or farming, and recently, riding as a sport.The hooves of horses that live freely outdoors  do not experience as much friction as do those of the working (jumping, carrying people on their backs) horses. However, working horses use up their hooves so much that their nails can't grow fast enough to keep up with them. Therefore, people invented a helpful tool  for horses: the horseshoe It is a metal band that is fixed under the hoof so that the hooves do not wear out quickly and is bent in the shape of the hoof to efficiently absorb impact and improve static friction when the hoof touches the ground. Despite the horseshoe  being nailed onto the hoof, the horses do not feel any pain, because the hoof doesn't have nerves like those in our fingernails. [https://www.livescience.com/50714-horse-facts.html]


The breed of horses that participate in the rehabilitation program is generally smaller than are horses that people typically ride on, which lessens children's fear when they first meet  horses. They are called Halla horses. At first, Jeju ponies were common in Jeju island, where cows were scarce and the ponies were a traditional breed that was used for farming. However, in the 1970s, as agricultural machinery was provided to farmers, ponies lost their places. They decreased in numbers from 20,000 to 1000 in the 1980s, which is when the government designated these ponies as natural monuments and promoted policies to protect and expand their population. Among these policies, one approach was to distribute them in the growing horseracing industry. Since there was no place for them in farming, this attempt fostered them in horseracing and gave them a new value. There, the Halla horse was born; it is a crossbreed between thoroughbreds, primarily used in horseracing, and the Jeju horses. Since the Halla horse was a crossbreed between a foreign horseracing breed and a traditional breed, it was petite but fast at the same time.



[Image of a Halla horse “Seri”, photo by Sejung Park]

Crossbreeding a foreign breed and a traditional breed was an excellent alternative solution initially; however, at some point, the Halla horse started to overpower the traditional Jeju horses. The original goal of fostering and promoting the traditional Jeju horses was in danger of dissolving. Therefore, Rural Development Administration of Jeju island decided to allow only the Jeju horses to participate in racing. On the other hand, the Halla horses were on the verge of being discarded after being used only to promote the Jeju horses. To everyone's surprise, these Halla horses were just right for youth horseback riding. [https://www.sciencetimes.co.kr/news/%ED%95%9C%EA%B5%AD%ED%98%95-%EC%8A%B9%EC%9A%A9%EB%A7%88-%ED%95%9C%EB%9D%BC%EB%A7%88%EB%A5%BC-%EC%95%84%EC%8B%9C%EB%82%98%EC%9A%94/]


In the horseback riding stable that I volunteer in, children with physical or mental disabilities come to the rehabilitation program to work with the instructors and the horses. The volunteers walk by the side with students riding the horse to secure their positions so that if students have problems balancing or even show signs of losing balance on the horse, the volunteers can immediately fix their posture or report the students' condition to the instructor for further management or can lead the horse from the front while the instructor works with the students on their exercise programs.


[Image of myself leading the horse around the field, photo by Sejung Park]


The instructors begin the program by adjusting the stirrups. A stirrup is a footrest that looks like a bicycle pedal. Adjusting the pedal is essential in order to can keep the riders stable on the horses and help them maintain their balance. After the stirrups are adjusted, the students start stretching their arms and their waist to prevent any injuries. The instructor makes plans for various disabilities with differing characteristics, such as using the underused  muscles on the rider's back when lifting their body up and slightly standing up as they ride the horses.


Rehabilitation with horses can strengthen cognitive skills, social capability, and social skills while reducing stress, negative sentiment, depression, anxiety, or destructive behaviors. Students can also learn manners and patience by working with the horses. The fluctuations of the horse's movement can provide a proper muscular tension level and intensify their balancing abilities, which can be a considerable exercise for the rider.













Sejung Park

Grade 12

Daegu Namsan High School


Sejung Park  hsr@dherald.com

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