Sep 9, 2021  By Eva Lange  Category: Special Needs,

Therapeutic Horseback Riding Strengthens IDF Soldiers with Special Needs

Yahar was only 3 years old when he first rode a horse at Red Mountain Therapeutic Riding Center in the south of Israel. Two and a half years ago, when he when he was already 19 and an IDF soldier through Special in Uniform, his family returned to the Eilat area after time away. Together with three other soldiers, he got weekly therapy at our farm until COVID-19 and governmental rules prevented us from receiving groups. Luckily, Yahar was able to come with a family member and he is still riding with us.

Yahar has Kabuki syndrome, a congenital disorder of genetic origin. It affects multiple parts of the body, with varying symptoms and severity, although the most common is the distinctive facial appearance. Other common symptoms are skeletal abnormalities, short stature, heart defects, vision and hearing difficulties, weak muscle tone or spasms, small head size and frequent infections. Kabuki is a rare syndrome, affecting roughly one in 32,000 births. It is named Kabuki syndrome because of the facial resemblance of affected individuals to stage makeup used in Kabuki, a Japanese traditional theatrical form.

When Yahar first started his therapy sessions with us as a young adult, he could not sit straight on a horse and had muscle spasms. To help him, we started him out on smaller horses and the ones with a very calm pace. Because of the weekly riding sessions, he can now sit straight and has a much better balance, far less spasms and his core strength and flexibility in his legs has improved a lot. Since Yahar has improved so much, he is now able to ride a much bigger and faster horse and he's very proud of it.

With Kabuki syndrome, there can also be intellectual and emotional impairments. For example, there can be difficulty with visuospatial tasks and maintaining attention. Yahar’s mother told us Yahar’s confidence has grown a lot. Riding gives him a feeling of normality and sitting on the horse makes him proud as he is bigger than the rest. He loves coming to Red Mountain Therapeutic Riding Center and being with the horses and wonderful staff. Riding gives him a whole new perspective and something to really look forward to.

As part of our focus on improving the quality of life in Israel for all its citizens, Jewish National Fund-USA is ensuring no member of Israeli society is left behind. We believe passionately that the inclusion of people with disabilities and special needs should be woven tightly into the fabric of Jewish life. All the more so in Israel. For more information on our work with disabilities and special needs, please contact Yossi Kahana. To donate to the Red Mountain Therapeutic Riding Center, click here.