A Closer Look at Outpatient Therapy
Physical, Occupational and Speech therapies are offered at SaddleUp! Equine facilitated therapies are provided by a licensed medical professional and utilize the movement of the horse and/or horse as a partner, as a treatment strategy throughout therapy sessions in order to meet the participant’s therapy goals.
These therapies are the core programs offered at SaddleUp! Foundation, because they are treatment strategies that are facilitated in an equine environment, therefore, making the experience of ‘therapy’ much more enjoyable. The horse’s movement translates through the rider's body, causing many parts of the body to engage. The therapist and/or equine professional can modify the horse's movement to promote specific responses from the participant. It requires a physician's release/approval.
These therapies promote and/or improve:
- Joint mobility
- Posture, circulation and muscle tone
- Motor development
- Physical stamina
- Emotional well-being
- Sensorimotor integration
The natural movement of the horse is used to help individuals with special needs increase their functional abilities and achieve greater independence. Horses are used because a horse moves in the same three ways as a human pelvis does. This creates a movement pattern similar to human walking. The horse also provides sensory input that promotes increased motor function. As the horse's movement changes the therapist assesses the degree of input to the participant, and can therefore determine other movements and/or other treatment strategies to achieve desired goals.
Therapies provided with this specific strategy can be beneficial to individuals with any number of physical and/or cognitive disabilities whose disabilities limit physical movement, coordination, balance, postural symmetry, decreased mobility, strength, sensory integration and the ability to relate to others.
Hippotherapy / Hippotherapist
Hippotherapy is a treatment strategy, not a type of therapy. The three therapies that SaddleUp! provides in its Outpatient Therapy Program are: Physical, Occupational and Speech. They may be provided by using the horse as a tool in the therapy sessions.
Similarly, the term Hippotherapist is a misnomer. A person conducting a session in which Hippotherapy might be used is a licensed Physical or Occupational Therapist, or a Speech and Language Pathologist.
Let’s Get A Little Bit Closer Now – Putting it all Together!
The benefits of equine assisted therapies have been recognized for many years. It is a proven method of increasing the physical, mental, emotional and developmental capabilities for individuals with special needs, functional limitation and/or medical challenges. There is a healing interaction between horses, participants, therapists, equine professionals, instructors and the volunteers who assist them during the session. The team dynamic provides an atmosphere that can produce dramatic and lasting benefits. In order to create a successful session, there needs to be a variety of elements in place depending upon a participant’s individual challenges, strengths and goals, the level of assistance needed that all equate to a successful session:
The horse is chosen with consideration of the participant’s needs and ability in addition to the movement of the horse.
The content of the session is determined by the therapist. The goal set is specific to the participant’s needs and abilities and based on individual therapy goals. Typically, riding and horsemanship skills will not be completed during Outpatient Therapies.
The participant’s team of volunteers provides moment-to-moment support, and keeps the participant safe, on the ground and focused on the session. Trust and positive social interactions result from the participant’s relationships with their volunteers. Volunteers play key roles during the session such as sidewalkers, spotters, and/or horse leaders.
The relationship between horse and participant is typically one of deep trust and affection, strengthened by increased interaction as the participant continually interacts with the horse. Participants often end the session by hugging and kissing their horses or by sneaking a carrot or two in their feed bucket!
Rest assured, we spend countless hours desensitizing our horses in order to provide an arena for equine facilitated activities and therapies that is as safe as possible. Even well-seasoned horses have been faced with objects or situations that are confusing, if not downright terrifying. We proactively train to cope with these reactions on a regular basis.
The SaddleUp! Foundation facility is very unique. We have a facility that can accommodate the entire family. Our staff and volunteers interact closely with participants with special needs as well as their siblings and parents. Participants are encouraged to bring their entire family in order to share in the experience at the facility by watching the therapeutic lessons or by relaxing, reading a book, painting crafts, playing games, watching a movie, taking a walk or playing on the swing set.
SaddleUp! works in conjunction with other programs by accepting referrals and referring when appropriate. Most programs operate with waiting lists and are located in different parts of the metro area. Other participants are referred to the program by Children's Hospital, Mental Health Association of Denver, Denver Options, Developmental Pathways, Douglas County Wrap Around, Craig Hospital, physical, occupational and speech therapists, and by parents.