Paradise for horses and riders

Mein Pferd ist mein TherapeutSchleswig-Holstein is considered to be the equestrian state par excellence in Germany. It is not just because the Holsteiner, a particularly successful horse breed, comes from here. The state is also a very popular holiday destination. This is due to the fact that Schleswig-Holstein has the highest horse density in all of Germany, with 33 horses per 1000 inhabitants – about 92,500 in total. This is likely because of the vast undeveloped areas, both forests and beaches, all of which are ideal for a leisurely ride.

Vertrauensübungen mit Askari

Trust exercises with Askari

For body and mind

Being around animals is good for people and has a soothing effect; it has been proven to reduce heart rate and blood pressure, but also has an energizing effect. “I have experienced this at retirement homes,” said Christina Wessels, a horseback riding therapist in Schwentinental. “When you get into the room with a dog, people can suddenly do a lot more because they want to touch the dog.”

But why take a horse to explore the area, and not a dog?

Even if it does not look like it to outsiders, riding is a sport, and not just for the horse. In addition to various supporting muscles, one’s sense of balance and different movements are trained during riding. In order to ride properly, body tension must be built up and held. This takes a lot of energy and helps to maintain a healthy body.
Not only the body benefits from interacting with horses, but also the psyche and the connection to one’s own behavior are improved. It trains one to perceive themselves and their actions together with their body language much more consciously, since the horse reacts according to the gestures, posture and, of course, voice, especially the tone and volume, of the rider.

One learns to act more confidently, to concentrate and to work with determination. “The horse is, of course, a very big living being, it is respectable. This has a very great impact on self-confidence” explained Ms. Wessels.
She told us about girls “who are relatively uncertain” who, after they made the great horse go in the desired direction independently, seemed ten centimeters larger. “And that is, of course, a big difference. It is simply a much larger living being” says Wessels.

My horse is my therapist


Hoof care

Whether with a horseback riding therapist or not, the same thing applies:

Riding and caring for a horse always has a positive effect. And yes, this also includes the work around taking care of the horse, namely cleaning, plucking, feeding etc.
If you have had a hard day or just want to get rid of a little stress, clearing away the dung in particular can provide relaxation, but, of course, so can the handling of the animal itself. Of course, one’s stress does not instantly vanish, but it releases through the physical activity and the soothing nature of the animal.

However, the horse can also be used for therapeutic purposes. The horseback riding therapist tells us that, “the nice thing is that the person is dealing with the animal and is treated without realizing it. It’s straightforward for the people who are treated a great deal because they do not even feel that they are being treated. They are just human beings, they take care of the horse quite normally, and they ride. They can ride in nature, they can ride in the hall and they do not feel that they are ill at that moment. This is precisely what the animal transports.” The therapies they offer with their specially trained Haflinger horses are very diverse. Due to its calming effect, horse therapy is particularly suitable for children with ADHD and, because of the size of the horses, there is a positive influence on the self-confidence of individuals. Riding therapy is also suitable for people who cannot walk themselves. Wessels explains, “when we ride in a step, our whole body is moved as if we were going straight ahead. This is, of course, a great advantage for people who cannot walk, because the whole musculature is addressed and brain regions are re-activated, which means that even a stroke patient can benefit from it completely.” This is not limited to special forms of illness. According to Wessels, “in principle, riding therapy is suitable for anyone who does not have a horsehair allergy (…) or is massively afraid of horses.” Excluding those with these restrictions, horseback riding therapy has a positive effect on every person.

Hindernisse überwinden

break down barriers

Not just riding

In the therapy units with Ms. Wessels, the time is not only spent on the horse. All the tasks that occur before and after riding are also taken over by the client. “A unit of 40 minutes includes picking up the horse, cleaning the horse, riding the horse and getting ready to go back to the stable.” The horse is not considered to be sports equipment, meaning the needs of the animal are met so that a holistic relationship can be established.

A question of money?

The cost for a one unit is 40€. Though these costs are not covered by health insurance, Ms. Wessels told us that “there are various sponsoring associations, also here in Kiel, who (…) are able to support, if a specific illness is present.” Regarding her clients she added that they all had a level of care and the parents would channel off the money there in case off doubt.

Therapy without therapist?

As previously mentioned, riding has a positive effect in itself. However, to use an untrained specialist as therapy would not be effective, since it is not designed to deal with the individual’s problems. If, however, no clinical option is available, you can still benefit from and be captivated by interacting with and riding horses. The possibilities for this are diverse and it is not necessary to buy your own horse. There are a lot of riding clubs and schools in and around Kiel, which offer an extensive and sometimes very favorable program. One hour of equestrian vaulting is available from five euros. More information can be found on the websites of the clubs and, if you want something else, you can also find offers for riding on the relevant classifieds pages on the internet.

Christina Wessels mit Rico (links) und Askari (rechts)

Christina Wessels with Rico (left) and Askari (right)


Riding offers in Kiel

From equestrian vaulting to riding lessons (dressage + jumping): 

Horse riding club Rossgarten;
Melsdorfer Str. 109, 24109 Kiel
– Vaulting from 5 €, Riding lessons from 15 €, lunge lessons from 20 €

Equestrian club Kiel – Mielkendorf e.V .;
Ihlkatenweg 4, 24247 Mielkendorf
– Riding lessons from 13,50 €

Kiel Race and Riding Club / Horse Sports Center Kiel;
Olshausenstr. 65-67, 24118 Kiel
– Riding lessons from 20 €, lunge lessons from 20 €
– Therapeutic riding

For the little ones:

Rönner Ponyfarm;
Family Pries; Am Teich 13, 24145 Kiel
– Riding holidays, class trips, daycare for children, children ‘s birthday
– Leading pony from 12 €, forest ride from 12 €; Riding lessons (on request)