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When he gets to RDA, Archie wheels his wheelchair as fast as he can so he can reach the horses as quickly as possible!
From struggling to sit up – to moving across the floor to get a toy, or to play with his brothers.
That’s what horse riding at RDA has done for Archie!
But there are so many children that miss out.
Archie didn’t always enjoy RDA. But now he loves it! He was very little when he started at RDA – he was 11 months old.
Riders usually start when they are over 3 years old, but in Archie’s case the health professionals suggested it and RDA agreed.
The physiotherapist and occupational therapist referred him. There was a waiting list but he was able to start within a short time.
Archie had stiff hips and he cried when he got on the horse. But he learned to lie on the sheepskin on his back, to relax, and to look at the roof.
Eventually at 15 months he could sit on his own.
Archie has a rare condition which means he has both an intellectual disability and a physical disability.
The condition that Archie has is called “Pallister Killian Syndrome (PKS) and it’s so rare that there are only a few children with this in New Zealand. Archie also has Epilepsy and Type 2 Diabetes, and his organs are affected.
Archie has low tone.
He can’t talk but he can verbalise.
As he grew, the muscles in his legs were able to stretch as a result of his riding.
Archie developed a beautiful bond with the volunteers. He was up high on the back of the horse so he could look them in the eyes and see them smiling at him.
Before long he was practising lots of positions – kneeling, sitting facing backwards, sitting facing forwards – all of these positions were so that he was working different sets of muscles.
By age two he could sit independently – and he could turn himself.
He did physio at home too.
His Mum, Alana, says that the great thing about RDA is that it is “therapy that is not therapy”.
That is, it really is therapy, but the child does not realise it – because they are having fun!
“The horse is so beneficial. When Archie is riding, he is moving in a regular and constant way. The horse is moving in the way that imitates walking. The exercises done at RDA mean that Archie is able to develop “muscle memory”. He doesn’t understand but it means that his muscles are primed to crawl or to walk.”
Starting at a young age leads to better outcomes.
Archie’s Mum and Dad know this because they’ve seen it happen.
His Mum and Dad love to watch him scoot along the floor to get a toy. Or to have a wee lie down on a mattress. They can also help him to balance and to stand.
After his ride he can walk with assistance. He can walk back to his wheelchair as long as he has someone’s arms to lean on. His walking improves each time he attends.
The riding session makes a difference also for his parents. It’s a chance to talk to other parents. The parents connect, they provide support for one another, and they swap ideas.
“The riding definitely helps to make him more mobile”, says his Mum. “It helps to improve his low tone and to improve his bone density. It’s a good opportunity for him to be upright. After riding he feels tired because he has been moving.”
And now at RDA, Archie thoroughly enjoys riding. After his ride he can walk with assistance. He is desperate to get on the horse! He flings his leg over the horse. He is rearing to go!
At home, Archie – now age seven – enjoys interacting with his older brother and his younger brother.
Being able to scoot across the floor means he can join in with them when they are playing nearby.
Archie loves RDA.