x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

CDA calls in cavalry to help children

An agreement between Dubai Police and the Community Development Authority will allow for the use of horses to provide motor-skills training to children with special needs.

DUBAI // Children with special needs will soon be treated to a little "hippotherapy", courtesy of Dubai Police.

Police horses will soon be used to help the youngsters, Emirati and expatriate, to develop their motor skills after an agreement was signed yesterday between the police and the Community Development Authority (CDA).

"The therapy looks at using horse riding," said Dr Omar Al Muthanna, the chief executive of social regulatory and licensing centre, and acting chief executive of the social-care sector at the CDA.

"It has several benefits and will help boost their morale, help them to relax, improve balance and help in muscle tone. We realised Dubai Police has a number of horses and we could put both together."

The way horses move can foster motor skills and sensory input.

At first, 15 children will receive the therapy, but this will increase depending on whether children are ready for it, resources available, and the training of police riders.

"We will be training their trainers. We are already in the process of training them and assigning the children," Dr Al Muthanna said, adding Emirati children with disabilities would be given priority.

The treatment is expected to begin in November when temperatures cool.

The CDA has already been using hippotherapy for more than a year with the help of an equestrian club.

Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim, the chief of Dubai Police, praised the CDA's initiatives and said they were of interest to a large section of society.

"Constructive cooperation to face community issues, especially social issues, is a key target and part of the framework of the Dubai Strategic Plan 2015," Gen Tamim said.

"Field studies carried out by the CDA on humanitarian and social issues in a scientific manner help protect the family and society from negative, external influences to maintain the values and principles of our society."

He said he would be pleased to provide the horses, along with equestrian experts to supervise the sessions.

As part of the agreement, the CDA will also share with police its database of hundreds of elderly Emiratis who have been living on their own.

"Since Dubai Police has a mapping system for the emirate, it will now have elderly citizens and their contacts marked out in the system," Dr Al Muthanna said.

"With this system, they can help them quickly in case of an emergency or even visit them to say hello."

Nearly 500 senior citizens, those over the age of 60, are registered with the CDA initiative called Waleef, which means "companion" in Arabic.

Volunteers are paired with the elderly and visit them regularly to provide companionship, take them wherever they need to go and help with their chores.

Dr Al Muthanna said the police horse agreement was a "perfect marriage", as it boosted the authority's role in the development of the community and gave police trainers an opportunity to give back to society.

pkannan@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Awad Mustafa