From Sharifah Nur Shahrizad Syed Mohamed Sharer
HINCHINBROOKE (QUEBEC), Sept 20 (Bernama) -- Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin visited a therapeutic riding centre here Sunday and came away impressed with the equine therapy programme for special children and disabled people.
His Majesty spent about two hours at the Lucky Harvest Therapeutic Riding Center where he was briefed by the coordinator and instructor, Debbie Wilson, and chatted with several participants of the programme.
Located about an hour's drive from Montreal, Lucky Harvest Therapeutic Riding Center is the first equine therapy centre to have received an accreditation certificate.
The Lucky Harvest Project was established in December 1990 with the primary aim of providing therapy, rehabilitation and enjoyment to children, youths, and adults with physical, intellectual, emotional and/or developmental disabilities.
The focus of the programme is similar to that of the Sultan Mizan Royal Foundation which assists disabled people, particularly in health care.
Tuanku (King) Mizan, who is chairman of the foundation and an avid endurance horse rider, is on a "special task" visit to Canada in conjunction with the "Brain Gain Malaysia" programme, of which the foundation is a grant recipient.
The therapeutic treatment at the Lucky Harvest centre begins with the matching of a patient with a suitable horse based on the patient's physical condition.
The treatment at the centre is for a broad range of physical, mental and emotional disabilities such as Cerebral Palsy, Down's and Rett Syndromes, neuromuscular disorders, post-traumatic brain injury, autism, and cognitive disorders.
Wilson, when met by RTM (Radio & Television Malaysia) and Bernama reporters prior to Tuanku Mizan's visit, said about 40 children underwent training per year, with about eight children undergoing the therapy every Saturday.
"We use the horse as a tool to help rehabilitate and promote the general well-being of children with disabilities. We also use the horse as a means of getting certain behaviour ... the horses are very sensitive, so a child of certain behaviour has to control his behaviour in order to get the horse to do what they want," she said.
Wilson said 80 per cent of the children attending the programme had speech problems and 60 per cent of them were autistic.
For children with speech problems, the centre worked on their language ability, while the autistic children worked well with the horse because it was their tool of communication, she said.
"To see your child who cannot play hockey, do ballet or participate in soccer or social group activities, ride and control a 1,000-pound horse is really amazing," she said, adding that all the horses used in the programme had been carefully selected and trained.
On Tuanku Mizan's visit, Wilson said it was a good opportunity to promote more people to be involved in the programme around the world.
"This visit is also an opportunity for us to make more people aware of our service here because we do not have the ability nor resources to promote the project on a larger scale," she said.