Riding for a cause

Horsepower: Pushpa Bopaiah uses equine therapy to boost confidence of differently abled

THE HEALING TOUCH: Pushpa Bopaiah (right) lends a helping hand to a physically challenged child at the ASC Centre in Bangalore on Tuesday. DH PhotoThe path she has chosen, equine therapy, is not only unique but has also rekindled hope and confidence in over 400 disabled children.

“Equine therapy happened by chance,” said Pushpa, after a therapeutic riding session with six kids at the ASC College and Centre on Tuesday. “I was a trained horse rider actively involved with an NGO associated with the health, hygiene and nutrition of disabled children. In 1997, I chanced upon equine therapy while surfing the internet.
Since it involved the rehabilitation of the disabled, I decided to take the plunge as it would extend my contribution towards the challenged.”

By definition, therapeutic horse riding utilises horses or horse riding for the benefit of individuals with a range of physical, emotional, cognitive and social disabilities.

Explaining the rationale behind physically commanding horses being used for this purpose, she went on, “It is scientifically established that with every change in motion in horses and humans, the centre of gravity shifts accordingly. When they sit on a horse, they experience the change with every step.


“Controlling it helps them develop their balance. Also, it makes them feel as if they are moving.”

In 1997, Pushpa enrolled herself for a certification with Special Equestrian Riding Centre (SERT), which requires a person to have 60 percent horsemanship and 40 percent knowledge of disabilities. After undergoing the 18-month training programme successfully in California, she returned to India and started her own equine therapeutic sessions with the disabled in April 2000 at the Princess Academy in Palace Grounds before moving to Agaram Riding and Polo Academy at ASC.

The hour-long session begins at 8.30 am and includes drills, exercises and horse riding. Pushpa didn’t make tall claims about equine therapy curing an individual of his disability.

“This is largely to boost their confidence and morale,” she observed. “Before their first session, most of them are down on confidence and morale. But after a few sessions, there is a gradual improvement. It is neither a cure nor a miracle, it is purely a confidence-installer.”

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