Twins Fatma and Mohammed love Thursdays. Every week on this day they travel to Barka Public Park to learn horse riding. This twin brother and sister are children of special needs and equine therapy helps them improve physical strength and cognitive capabilities. Both are students of Care and Special Education (CSE) where they are provided with different therapies by trained teachers.
Meet the guardian angel of special children. Rashid bin Salim al Abrawi launched the Knights of Oman Equestrian School for such children.
He started his dream project because he believes that horse riding is a powerful treatment for conditions such as Down syndrome, Williams’s syndrome, Angelman syndrome and various other disabilities.
Maimuna bi Sayed Ajaz who ferries her twin siblings to the horse farm says the horse rides have made the twins feel on an equal footing with normal kids.
“The therapy makes them confident and positive about life. Encouragement and love for these special children can work wonders. Through regular horse riding sessions, they can develop self-esteem, confidence and social skills. A lot of events are not accessible to disabled people which prevent them from reaching their true potential.”
The therapists there have found that controlled horseback riding helps the kids with their posture, balance, and flexibility. Reinilda Dernison, a Dutch neuro and cognitive behavioral therapist, who visits the farm says she loves using her photography skills to freeze precious moments with such children.
“I could notice many joyful parents, incredibly proud of their kids on the horse and giving high fives at Rashid’s farm.”
An amateur photographer, it was Reinilda’s passion in her 20-year career working with special needs that allowed her to click portraits of the kids.
“In the Netherlands, my home country, we have farms where children with special needs move around and mingle freely among animals. In Oman too, families sometimes have their own farm with animals which are very important aspects for growing up. I hope we find more sponsors to develop these farms and are helpful for parents to be able to recreate.” Rashid, a mechanical engineer, started the school in October 2021, as he had a passion for horses and tent pegging. This began during his young days while visiting his grandfather’s farm in Ibra which was later sold after he passed away.
Rashid has arranged a special room for free bioenergy therapy sessions through the Dream Green Oasis Centre. He mentions the differences in training each child with disabilities be it hearing, visual, physical or mental. He is also looking forward to support and sponsors who can provide him with equipment beds, learning games or any other help. He says there is also a shortage of cowboy saddle weights, Arab saddles, and safety tools.
On weekdays, training sessions are held for normal children and adults. The school provides a special saddle for those with physical disabilities, a hospice backrest and two safety belts, first in the abdominal area, and the other in the leg area.
Rashid specially mentions Khamis al Sharji, the first Omani rider with visual impairment who topped the marathon horse riding endurance races and visits the farm to share his experience. Horses Samed and Kan are now used for therapy purposes with the children. Rashid developed skills of dealing with children with disabilities through YouTube and reading books. For more details check their Instagram at horseriding. om
Photos by Reinilda Dernison