Horsies, Day 1



Yesterday was a good day. I showed up to get my horse ready – today it was Gigi. She’s a sweet girl, and sports an awesome mohawk (as you can see in the pic!). The picture is from after the lesson, during lunch time, so hence her not paying me much attention, but she did at least turn around to let me get a better shot!

Anyway, so after tacking her, I waited with her about 20 minutes before the class started, just shootin’ the breeze, chatting and such. I did most of the talking. But she seemed to enjoy it, as she kept doing mouth & tongue stuff. The time came, and the class began. Now, a little background in how hippotherapy works (taken from the interwebs):

Hippotherapy (from the Greek “hippo” meaning “horse”) is an intensive one-on-one therapy session with a physical, occupational, or speech therapist utilizing the movement of the horse as a treatment strategy. HPOT does not teach riding skills; instead the goals are geared towards independence with functional activities of daily living. The movement of the horse creates a multi-sensory experience that is manipulated and graded by the therapist. The movement imparted to the patient from the horse’s movement creates a pattern that is similar to normal walking in the patient. This movement cannot be duplicated in traditional clinical settings. As a result of the horse’s movement, the patient makes improvements including balance, strength, coordination, and postural symmetry. Improvements in these areas result in increased independence with functional activities such as walking, dressing and communication. Depending on an individual’s need, clinic treatment is incorporated in the on-site therapy room or the functional environment of the barn to either prepare the patient for the movement of the horse or address functional goals after the movement of the horse has prepared the patient’s body.

During a class, there are 5 people and a horse. 1 person is obviously the client/patient, then there is the patient’s therapist, a leader, a “driver” (? I forget the official names of the positions), and a sidewalker. The therapist is obviously the one working directly with the patient, walking on one side of the horse and guiding the class. The leader walks ahead of the horse, assisting where necessary (for example, if a prop used in class is a ball, and it goes astray, rather than have the therapist, sidewalker, or the driver leave the horse & patient, this person can get it safely). The “driver” holds the long lines and steers/guides the horse in the proper direction (walking behind the horse – which is odd, but it’s how this particular type of therapy is done – the patient isn’t holding the reigns, so walking behind the horse is as close as they can get without actually being on the horse), and the sidewalker (that would be me!) walks on the opposite side from the therapist, making sure the patient is stable on the horse (by using an ankle or thigh hold).

It was both my patient’s and my first day! So that worked out. And it was beautiful – super sunny, albeit freezing (like 38 degrees or something ridiculous), and we just walked around the grounds. I think the kid enjoyed it, too. He’s a 4 year old, and just has a great attitude, very smiley and talkative. I’m excited for the next class!

I didn’t do barn team today, as I just had training the day before, and they’re working to get me on the schedule, so hopefully after the next class I’ll stick around and scoop horse poop. 🙂

I know not every time will be sunny and easy, but I do know it’ll be beautiful.

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