For the last four years, the Jockey Club of Turkey has been running Horse Therapy Centers as part of its social responsibility project.
The projects help disabled children spend therapeutic time with horses. The free of charge services will be available at the hippodromes in Istanbul, Diyarbakır, İzmir Şirinyer, Bursa, Şanlıurfa, Elazığ and Adana. The therapy sessions involve specially trained horses, expert physiotherapists and psychologists. The center aims to help improve the quality of life for mentally or physically disabled children.
Zeynep Haldan of the Jockey Club of Turkey told Anadolu Agency (AA) that the center offers its services to mentally and physically disabled children, as well as children with emotional needs.
Before the therapy starts, children need to get release forms from their doctors stating that they are able to ride horses. Children ride horses for a while under the supervision of physiotherapists and psychologists.
"The horse therapy is currently underway at seven of our hippodromes across the country with the same program in each center," Haldan added.
Psychologist Bercis Merdanoğlu, who is involved in the program, said the therapy program has continued for the last four years. "Currently we are helping out 300 disabled children in Istanbul and a total of 1,500 children from all over the world. The therapy helps muscle development and leg-arm coordination in children. While they are getting therapy, riding the horse is a game for them."
Merdanoğlu added that the psychological effects of horse therapy cannot be overlooked. "Children feel that they are accomplishing something. They know that even if they cannot walk, there is someone that can walk for them. We have witnessed children who start speaking and walking after the therapy."
Fourteen-year-old Selin Öztürk, who has a physical disability, shared her experience. "I love horse riding. I have been riding for the last four years. Horses are my friends now. I am very happy. I still get the goosebumps while I am riding," Öztürk said. Her mother is very happy to see the changes in her daughter after starting the therapy. "My daughter has been coming to the center for the last four years along with other therapies and rehabilitation centers. Before the horse therapy, Selin had a hard time to sit right but since we came here, the muscles in her back became really strong and she can now sit straight. In the beginning, three people were holding Selin on the horse, now she can ride on her own," she added.
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