Icelandic horses help integrative educational therapy at the Iceland Fire Farm

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to: Boris Borg

split, rip

Icelandic Icelandic Horse: Rebecca Feith treats children with reading, spelling, arithmetic weaknesses, learning blocks, and school concerns with her animals. © Private

Horses are used in various forms of therapy. On the Islandfeuer farm on the outskirts of Heessen, they are supposed to help children with reading, writing and arithmetic disabilities.

Hessen – it does not work with the word Icelandic horse, but with the animal everything is better. Once or twice a month, Rebecca Veith uses her horses for her integrative educational therapy for schoolchildren at Hof Icelandfeuer – and one form of exercise is syllable string. Children with dyslexia must read a four-syllable word while riding on a horse in a four-pulse rhythm, and thus learn to stress the words accurately.

Veith has been providing therapy on the remote farm in Frielicker Holz on the edge of Heessen for exactly five years, after she and her family (and Icelandic horses, of course) moved here from Lippborg. Kids come here once a week to work with Veith on dyslexia, dyscalculia (arithmetic impairment), learning blocks or school anxiety. Gary from Gut Tiergarten and Skima from Hof ​​Gladur, two Icelandic horses that have been trained for about a year and a half, are helped in different ways.

“A horse provides many opportunities to talk,” Feith says, explaining that many children with dyslexia do not want to talk. Swallowing syllables or speaking too quickly is also a problem, according to the trained teacher, who after a short stint in school trained first as a riding therapist and then as an integrative learning therapist. Before moving to Hessen, I actually worked as an education therapist, but without Icelanders for organizational reasons.

Speaking and arithmetic on and with the horse

Icelandic horses are another way to learn hands-on with students. For example, rhythm can be trained like clapping, Feith explains. With the series of syllables above, the children should slow down to the horse’s rhythm, so that they can look at the syllables individually. During memory training, children ride a cycle they set up themselves or have to find pictures hidden under towers.

Stimulating movement while riding, in turn, enhances the tone regulation of children’s motor skills in general, but also oral motor skills in particular. Mathematically, the horse can be used to find very easy tasks even multiplication and division for elementary school children. How many legs does a horse have, and how many legs do three horses have? How many bales of straw, each one meter long, fit into the previously measured space? “Kids can visualize it because they can see,” Faith says.

Handling a horse also ensures stable, non-negotiable processes, which is especially important for children with ADHD. “Get the horse, clean it up, saddle it and ride it — then do it all backwards again,” Faith says, describing the structure of the lesson.

horse ice crusher

Therapy participants have a private lesson in the afternoon after school. “Every child has special challenges and does not respond to the same support,” Faith says, explaining the need for individualized care. Currently, nine student hours are distributed throughout the week. They usually come in second or third grade. With a few exceptions, treatment lasts for two years, after which the children have developed enough strategies to stay in school, Feith explains. However, sometimes older pupils come in who are preparing for a school change and need new educational structures. School dropouts are also being helped in northern Hesse.

The Youth Welfare Office puts children together with Veith, but parents are also particularly aware of the show through word of mouth. “After a short phone call, I invite the parents here with the baby,” Faith says. This way both parties can see if it is appropriate. There is a four-week probationary period. “Children have to want it, otherwise it will be useless. But in truth there was no child who did not return. The horse is an icebreaker.”

Sympathy for a horse is completely different. Some kids quickly get to know how Gary and Skima feel, while others only do exercises with four-legged friends. Here, too, each child is different, just as with learning itself, some respond more to visual stimuli, others to auditory stimuli.

Good social skills

Veith considers her Icelandic horses – along with Gari and Skima there are others in the building – well suited to her job because they are calm actors who don’t react to every sudden noise and fast movement and “look after the kids” when he slipped while riding. It also attests that Gari and Skima have good social skills because they live in the herd all year round as weatherproof animals. “I can count on you.”

Last but not least, four-legged friends have plenty of energy, which they’ll also need for therapy sessions, says Faith. These are not necessarily physically demanding for horses, but rather mentally. Therefore, each animal receives only a maximum of twice a week.

Contact:, Rebecca Veith, Tel. 0170/4153001, email:

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