Currently, various methods are developed to treat autism in children. One of those is to give therapy, starting from behaviour therapy, oral skills therapy, playing with dolphins therapy, and recently, equestrian therapy.
Riding a horse therapy is not yet common in Indonesia. But now, UGM opened this therapy for autism in early March. It was developed by Gadjah Mada Equestrian Center (GMEC), a unit jointly set up by UGM Equestrian Unit, Cattle and Pet Laboratory of Faculty of Animal Sciences and UGM Student Affairs Directorate.
Chairman of GMEC, Ir. Edi Suryanto, M.Sc., Ph.D., said that such therapy was offered by GMEC. Up to now 6 students are participating in this therapy, five from Fajar Nugraha school for autism and one from Damayanti school for students with special needs.
Edi said the children are encouraged to interact with horses. This activity is expected to help children with autism interact with horses and help them focus as well as socialise with other children. “Children are asked to be involved in feeding the horse, brushing its hair and tail, putting the saddle on and riding the horse,” he said after the opening of Plaza Agro Gadjah Mada, Friday (30/3).
The therapy is conducted every Sunday morning at 08.00-09.00 hours at a site run by Faculty of Animal Sciences at Gambiran street in Karangasem, Sleman regency.
Edi said this therapy could help children concentrate and reduce their aggresiveness. “Interacting with horses makes them happy and help them focus,” said the man who is also Deputy Dean for Student Affairs, Alumni and Business Development at the Faculty.
Apart from horse therapy, GMEC also offers riding horse school. GMEC trains students in basic riding skills, dressage, show jumping, cross country, and endurance. Training lasts 1 hour 4 times a month. “The school received enough appreciation from the public. Since February there has been 100 registrants but we limit the members to only 20 as we have only 4 horses,” he said.
Child development psychologist, Prof. Endang Ekowarni, said the horse therapy depends on the condition of patients and therapists. The therapist should also understand the character of the horse.