Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"31 for 21" - Hippotherapy vs Theraeutic Riding

As I mentioned yesterday, once I saw how comfortable Cate was on a horse and how good it was for her physically I started looking into Hippotherapy vs riding lessons.  Cate has some friends do Hippotherapy which is according to Wikipedia is "a form of physical, occupational and speech therapy in which a therapist uses the characteristic movements of a horse to provide carefully graded motor and sensory input. A foundation is established to improve neurological function and sensory processing, which can be generalized to a wide range of daily activities."  When I got down to the purposes and strategies used in Hippotherapy I could see how beneficial it could be for a child with Ds.  It actually has a lot of the same characteristics as Aqua-therapy had for Cate before she started walking.  Hippotherapy has benefits not just in major muscle strength but in speech and OT areas as well.  There were two major reasons I decided not to go this direction with Cate.  One she is strong and coordinated enough that she does not qualify for a physical therapy prescription and our insurance won't pay for Hippotherapy anyway.  The other reason is that Hippotherapy does not give control to the rider, the therapist is normally in control.  This seemed like it would be exceptionally difficult for Cate to take now that she had a taste of "real" riding.  I was foreseeing lessons that were way more of a fight then a benefit.

At the same time as I really got into the research we found out that we need to find a new occupational therapist as Cate's was retiring.  One of the centers that was recommended to me as a replacement was a therapy center that did not only did OT but had a program called "therapeutic riding lessons".    I was pretty much sold as soon as I saw the description:

Therapeutic Riding is an exciting recreational therapy that combines the positive movement of the horse with a rider’s ability to take control. It is a highly sought after sport for riders with a disability that prevents them from having a natural walking gait, for on the horse you can’t tell which rider is the disabled one, we are all equal. However, Therapeutic Riding is also beneficial to many disabilities; cognitive, physical, sensory, or just self esteem!
It encourages riders towards independence. Most riders will learn to tack up their own horse as well as walk, trot and canter without the use of a leader or side walker. Each lesson plan is tailored to the individual rider and their set goals and objectives. A few students have recently attended able-bodied horse shows and performed extremely well against other riders.
Patients receiving Hippotherapy do not typically control the movement of the horse. As the American Hippotherapy Association describes, Hippotherapy takes place in a controlled environment where graded sensory input can elicit appropriate responses from the rider. Specific riding skills are not taught as in Therapeutic Riding; rather a foundation is established to improve neurological function and sensory processing.

All this seemed right up Cate's alley so in September of 2013 we started therapeutic riding lessons every other week.  Here is my original post about Cate's first lesson with lots of pictures -

Sept 2013  - first lesson

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