Equine-assisted therapy is a physiotherapy treatment strategy using the horse as a dynamic platform to address issues of strength, range of motion, balance and the restoration of walking. This is very different from therapeutic riding lessons, which is horseback riding adapted for individuals with special needs.
Providing physiotherapy with the assistance of the horse is very motivating for clients and provides unique facilitation of balance and walking that is difficult to achieve in any other way.
Stephanie Boyd, a Registered Physiotherapist and co-director at Pathways Therapy, has participated in post-graduate education with the American Hippotherapy Association and has achieved their Level 1 and 2 hippotherapy certification.
When you sit on a horse, the human pelvis sits on the horse pelvis. As the horse’s pelvis moves forward and back, through lateral tilt and through rotation, it facilitates this movement in the pelvis of the human on its back. This provides us with the opportunity to facilitate pelvic movement and trunk control in the human similar to that if the person were walking. Riding the horse facilitates rhythmic stepping at a normal walking speed in the client.
In addition to being seated on a walking horse, exercise programming is provided while mounted as part of physiotherapy treatment. Our clients experience the sensation and facilitation of postural control in a variety of positions while mounted; this may include seated forwards or backwards, being in a 4 point position, kneeling or even standing depending upon what is appropriate for the client. The client participates in an active exercise program while mounted on a horse or pony.
We are very excited about the gains that our clients are making. Pathways Therapy is providing treatment for both adults and children with a variety of neurological, orthopaedic and cognitive diagnoses. The horse is part of our physiotherapy treatment strategy.
We welcome anyone who would like to come out to the barn and see what we are doing. We would very much like to share this with others; it is a labour of love, we are thrilled with the difference we are seeing in our clients.
It is very rewarding to see people not only make significant gains with physiotherapy treatment but also to see them enjoy therapy and benefit from all that having a relationship with an animal can bring.
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