Transforming lives one hoof-beat at a time
Rebekah was born with spina bifida and has spent much of her life in a wheelchair. In 1999, at the age of six, her parents took her to the HorsePower Hills with a view to improving the movement in her joints and strengthening her muscles. Little did they know that this would be the start of a journey of discovery and achievement that would transform Rebekah’s health and life, not only as a child, but also as an adult.
From Max, the first pony Rebekah rode as a six-year-old, through to Brian, who she has ridden since 2012, Rebekah’s journey with HorsePower Australia and her equestrian friends (two-legged and four legged) has been a remarkable one. It has transformed her mobility, independence, self-confidence and emotional wellbeing – when Rebekah was diagnosed with a mental health issue, her relationship with Brian took on a whole new dimension and importance.
It’s also a journey that has seen Rebekah compete in a host of dressage competitions and, since 2016, train with a number of dressage coaches from around the world – Paralympian Sharon Jarvis, Jon Pitts and Katrin Kuenstler to name a few.
When Cameron was born in 1995 he was in perfect health but then, only five months later, he contracted pneumococcal meningitis. The resulting brain damage left him with dyspraxia (loss of fine and gross motor co-ordination) and a severe loss of muscle strength, as well as epilepsy.
At two-and-a-half years of age, unable to walk despite undergoing regular conventional and alternative therapies, Cameron came to HorsePower Australia where he sat on a horse for the first time. With no core strength to speak of, it took five people to assist him and keep him safe that first time. After just six months attending HorsePower his muscle tone and motor skills had improved markedly – so much so that he was able to stand and walk independently at his third birthday party.
Since then, Cameron has been a regular at HorsePower Australia, and while he will never be able to lead a ‘normal’ independent life – he has similar needs to those of a toddler – his sessions here have transformed his physical and emotional wellbeing. Today, at the age of 23 and surrounded by his extended HorsePower family, Cameron has progressed to carriage driving, giving him a degree of freedom and independence that his family thought may never be possible.
Miley is currently 7 years old and has a huge passion for horses. Finding a therapeutic horse program such as those offered by HorsePower Australia has been hugely beneficial for Miley. Miley has both Visual and Auditory Processing Disorders along with anxiety issues. This makes it difficult to focus on tasks for an extended period of time difficult. We chose to enrol Miley with HorsePower Australia as an ongoing weekly therapy, allowing Miley to benefit from the therapeutic opportunities that each session brings. Miley directly benefits from Physical, Occupational, Speech/Auditory Therapy all whilst having some fun on the back of a horse. During her weekly riding sessions, we have noticed an increase in her self-confidence and happiness, she is able to positively work her brain, listening, processing, and performing tasks that are given to her by her coach and volunteer supports. Which is wonderful to see.
Through HorsePower Australia, Miley not only has access to the therapeutic benefits of being with horses, but she also gets to learn Horse Riding and Horsemanship Skills, that teach her how to care for these animals that bring her such joy. As a participant of HorsePower Australia Miley also gets the opportunity to participate in State sporting competitions including Dressage and the famous Community TAB State Games that are held every year, this event is loads of fun!
The Coaches, Assistant Coaches, and all the volunteers associated with HorsePower Australia are wonderful and highly skilled, we are extremely grateful for all their continued support.
Viv is 57-year-old woman who previously worked with racehorses, as a track rider and trainer. In 2017 Viv suffered a debilitating stroke. Given her history of horse-riding Viv was keen to get involved in HorsePower Australia’s Hippotherapy program, a specialist program that utilises the horse as a therapeutic tool in Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy.
On Viv’s first session, despite her experience with horses, she was very nervous and required the assistance of two specially trained assistants to help her mount and three to help her dismount. Viv only managed 10mins on the horse and was unable to maintain a midline position, overcompensating on her right side.
After four weeks Viv’s core strength and balance had improved so much that she was able to mount from a ramp with standby assistance and dismount with only one person providing support. Whilst riding on the horse Viv could now maintain a midline position on the right rein and was able to walk up the mounting ramp with an even stride. However, she couldn’t tolerate being on the left rein at all at this stage.
After a year, Viv was riding without any side walkers, but still on the lead, on left or right circles without losing her position. Her goal was to compete in a Dressage competition on her therapy horse Cookie. Cookie, aka ‘Your Good Fortune, is an Off the Track 15.2hh Standardbred.
Because of Viv’s riding sessions she was able to return to an activity which she loved before her stroke and her whole life was enhanced. Viv said that her riding sessions progressed her rehabilitation 6 months faster than if she had not joined the HorsePower program.
Viv is still riding at her HorsePower centre and loving her time with her new horse Tiah. Tiah is an 15.2hh Andalusian x mare and was involved in vaulting for HorsePower until 2019. Viv continues to strengthen her physical and mental health with continuity of her sessions at HorsePower
Viv’s confidence has improved so much that she now rides completely independently at walk and trot and is preparing for her 2nd HorsePower Progressive Dressage event later this year.