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Humans dealing with physical and mental ailments can benefit from improvements in condition that many types of therapy can offer. One of these is equestrian-aided therapy. Its techniques offer a unique range of tools that are both mentally and physically beneficial to the patient.
“The activity of riding closely simulates human gait. The warmth from the horse and the rhythmical motion provides relaxation to spastic muscles. Exercises done on the horse are designed to improve balance, endurance, range of motion and strength” (HETRA, 2011).
In physical therapy with the horse, humans form a bond with the animal. The patients learn how to care for and ride the horse, while fostering a stable relationship. By working with the animal, patients enjoy themselves and are able to see improvement in confidence and even improvement in his or her condition. “Grooming a horse works to improve tactile responses and motor planning skills” (HETRA, 2011). The horse can be used as a part of not only physical but mental stimulation. Students can improve fi ne motor and non-verbal communication skills and routines, among other skills. With the many stimulating sensory experiences such as the noises of the horses, tactile experiences, barn smells, new and exciting sights, and possibly even tastes, therapy patients have many opportunities for betterment of their condition.
Like horses, an intimate relationship between architecture and humans is also possible. This is because architecture cannot be defined without human interaction--architecture is made complete through the viewer. Our bodies are the only things we have with which to experience space: in activating the body’s neurological systems by means of sensory experiences, we are able to stimulate ourselves mentally and physically, regenerating the disabled body. A proper therapeutic space activates the relationship between the viewer and the built form -- taking it beyond the architecture and into a user’s space. In many ways, architecture mimics the body -- it expands, contracts, has a skin, responds to the environment, is healed and deteriorates. The architecture body can be designed to aid in the healing process (as a second skin of the users),
For this project, the extent of the research and design decisions focused on the ways in which architecture can take its cues from the therapy world; creating a place that is as equally therapeutic and stimulating as the therapies housed within. The result: a project designed to incorporate architecture, horses and therapies that answers the question:
Can architecture become an instrument of therapy, where architecture becomes more than just the enclosure, but a tool for therapy providing a place that uses horses and architecture as the tools for human therapeutics?