The GaitWay to the Brain program takes riders through a series of activities to help them focus and calm down to get the best out of their therapeutic riding lesson.
Some activities include:
- music therapy
- cross-body movements
- hand-eye coordination building
- eye training
These activities help riders gain balance and stimulate the pathways in the brain that are used in making cognitive connections between hearing and understanding to performing tasks asked of them. Music therapy stimulates middle ear development which helps balance and posture, language comprehension, and speech production. Cross-body movements requires riders to make opposite side movements with their arms, that is, reaching across their body with one hand to place objects in the other hand. This stimulates brain connectivity between the left and right hemispheres, and leads to improved cognitive function.
Objectives include increases in:
- Verbal output – Regardless of age (age 2-60+ years), rider’s verbal output will be measured on the ability to make new sounds, form new words, and use expressive language.
- Self-regulation – The rider will be measured on the improved and increased behavior toward the horse and their ability to make appropriate behavior choices in social settings.
- Ability to self-calm – The rider will be measured on the ability to self-calm in an otherwise stressful situation.
- Ability to focus – The rider will be measured on the ability to focus on a particular task or set of tasks and length of time to do so.
- Performance – The rider will be measured on the ability to learn new skills, such as writing or the ability to improve a current set of skills, such as riding ability.
- Input – The rider will be measured on the improved receptive language skills, such as the ability to follow directions, receive and process directions more efficiently, and multi-task.
Riders and families are also given activities to do at home for continuing success.