KUALA LUMPUR: A 38-year-old mother from Kuala Kangsar, Perak threw herself into horse riding after she saw how equine therapy had significantly improved the life of her son, Harith Danial Heazar Ismail, 14, who was diagnosed with hyperactivity and autism.
Sharifah Noorfaslina says Harith Danial greatly benefitted from several sessions of equine therapy at Cape Cavallho Equestrian Club in Rembau, Negeri Sembilan
“After his first equine therapy session, he could speak in one short complete sentence compared to before where it was only one or two words.
“In fact, my son is significantly calmer after each session,” she says, explaining to Bernama that he is usually very hyperactive and prone to putting himself in physical danger.
She says that after attending regular equine therapy sessions, Harith Danial has also become more attentive towards his surroundings and shown more interest in interacting with others.
“Autistic children are usually absorbed in their own world but what I notice is that Harith Danial can now focus like other normal children, so I take the opportunity to teach him something new each time, like telling him to do his school work, which he now completes without any temper tantrums,” she said.
Encouraged by her son’s improvement, Sharifah Noorfaslina, a pharmacist, decided to learn horse riding herself and now takes part in several extreme horse racing competitions.
It has been three years since she started, and her regular participation in such events has earned her the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) International Endurance Rider ‘one-star’, which enables her to participate in extreme equestrian tournaments overseas.
“I really hope that Harith Danial can participate in the show jumping category like other normal individuals, because I am confident with our coach, Muhammad Zulfikar’s capability and guidance,” she said, referring to the category for persons with disability (PwD) which is the ‘special Olympics’ for the show jumping or dressage event.
Sharifah Noorfaslina tells Bernama that training for extreme equestrian tournaments has not been easy.
She has suffered several painful injuries including having her tibia bone (shinbone) broken after being kicked by a male horse. She also badly fractured her left shoulder once during practice.
“However, I’ve never given up or lost hope. I believe in the saying: ‘fall down seven times, stand up eight’.”
She said her dream is to open a horse-riding academy someday and offer free lessons to children with disabilities, not only for therapy but also to train them for competitions alongside normal individuals.