Norik of Muran mares will help children in Šúr
Five purebred mares of the Norik of Muran horse breed are grazing around the research station of the Faculty of Natural Sciences in Šúr nature reserve, near the town Sv. Jur. Soon they will be employed as animal therapists. The Faculty of Natural Sciences of Comenius University received support from the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation to use them for hippotherapy.
By: Naša univerzita magazine staff
The horses came from the Muránska planina plateau in Central Slovakia and are still getting used to their new home. Šúr is a unique location and the research station is surrounded by an original alder wetland forest, a Pannonian oak grove and grass salt marshes. There is a pond and other bodies of water, the area of which changes depending on the rainfall and the inflow of water from the Male Karpaty mountains. Norik of Muran is a rare original Slovak horse breed, developed for logging work in the mountains. The breed is very calm and patient which makes it suitable for hippotherapy. „They like to be pet, they let people to comb them and feed from the hand,“ says the station’s manager Marián Grančič, who is in daily contact with the animals.
A new stall was built for the horses, as well as play elements used in the therapy and an electric fence. Soon, facilities for children and their parents and an educational trail will be added. In addition to hippotherapy, the horses will be used for educational purposes for all those who want to learn more about natural communication with horses, or just want to enjoy the beauty of the Šúr reserve on horseback.
„This activity stimulates the cooperation and joint projects of natural scientists (biological and environmental aspects), medical practitioners (hippotherapy) and teachers (special pedagogy). Our intention is create a link between the increasingly consumer-oriented world of people with the world of animals, which offers a return to the original qualities and values,“ explains the Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Peter Fedor.
In addition to helping children, the horses assist in preserving valuable biodiversity through grazing. For centuries, people from the surrounding villages kept horses, cows and goats in Šúr, thus preserving its unique plant set-up. However, in recent decades, livestock farming in the surrounding villages disappeared. The deterioration of the nature reserve led to an effort to restore the grazing tradition. The part of the reserve adjacent to the research station, which is under the administration of the Bratislava Regional Conservation Association, has steppe cows grazing on it and the Faculty of Natural Sciences uses two cuddly goats to graze its land in addition to the horses – Miša the billy goat and Lily the goat doe.
The entire area of the Šúr research station has not seen major investments in decades, but that is gradually changing. With the financial help of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, the faculty is planning to renovate the accommodation facilities for students who perform field practice, as well as other buildings which will serve biologists, environmentalists and other experts of the faculty who carry out their research here.
The main objectives of the project of the Faculty of Sciences supported by The Prince Albert II Foundation:
· support the protection of the gene pool of the rare national breed of the Norik of Muran
· restore traditional land use (pasture), which maintains valuable biodiversity
· use horses in hippotherapy
· support environmental education
What is hippotherapy?
Hippotherapy is a treatment method that involves the horse as an assistant in physical and mental treatment and development of a patient. ‘Teaching and psychological riding’ develops, among other things, cognitive functions (memory, attention, thinking, spatial orientation...), and positively affects emotional experience or behaviour. It is suitable for people with autism spectrum disorders, sensory disabilities, mental disabilities, Down's syndrome, delayed development, speech and communication disorders, and for the long-term sick. Contact with a horse also has a beneficial effect on healthy children and adults.