Wednesday, May 11, 2011


First, if you are a mom reading this...HAPPY MOM'S DAY! I hope you had a lovely day.

I wanted to continue with some thoughts on other therapies that we have done, which I believe have made a huge difference in compensating with unreasonable fears, particularly when it comes to balance issues or gravitational fears (fear of falling, heights etc.) Some of the therapies are very conventional and well-known. However, there are therapies that are not mainstream.

While nothing works for every child, I believe the best tool a parent can have is KNOWLEDGE. The more you know, the more informed every decision can be.

So one of the first unconventional therapies we employed was hippatherapy. The word "hippa" is from the Greek word for "horse." The word "hippopotamus" means "river horse." So the hippatherapy is in fact the term for horse therapy. (not riding a hippopotamus!)

This therapy is pretty readily available in most medium sized towns, usually in conjunction with a rehabilitation or physical therapy clinic.

The horses are older, calm and uniquely trained specifically for the therapy. 2 volunteers are positioned on each side of the child holding him or her on the horse. The child wears a helmet and the horse is on a lead, with another volunteer leading the horse around the pen. The child will work with a physical therapist while on the horse. They will ride, play ball, put rings on pins in the pen, ride backwards, ride on their knees, and do other activities. Safety is always the most important issue...there is no way the child can fall or the horse can bolt.

The horse provides a high, unstable place. The child must use his or her muscles to adjust constantly to the movement of the horse. Ball playing helps to trigger eye/hand coordination while promoting their balance. A horse's height helps to desensitize the child to the fear of falling, and the fear of heights. (gravitational insecurity) Senses must integrate if the child is to be successful. Many times the child is also allowed to brush the horse and feed the horse a little treat. (Ryan loved this part!) Bi-lateral (using both sides of the body in tandem) coordination is also enhanced with the horse-riding skills.

Ryan did hippatherapy for 16 weeks, once a week. He did an 8 week run, and six months later the other 8 weeks. We followed the hippatherapy with some horseback-riding lessons. I believe it made a huge difference in my son's ability to balance and cope with fears of falling. It also allowed his brain to make some connections in his body that were not wired correctly.

Ryan was around 5 years old when we began the therapy. If your child is younger, talk to your physical therapist to get a recommendation for a time to begin.

If hippatherapy is simply not an option, stay tuned....there are other things that will help your child's coordination and gross/fine motor skills, as well as calm many of their fears.

1 comment:

  1. I just wanted to add something, riding the horse also helps with gross motor skills in that the way a horse walks imitates the way a human walks (up forward down back)and so helps the brain to connect with how walking is supposed to work.

    I think some stables will actually start with children as young as 2.


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