Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Hippotherapy

Teddy had his first hippotherapy session yesterday. To me, it looked more like a horse than a hippo. (I know, I'm such a comedian.) Hippotherapy is therapy done using trained horses, along with volunteers, and a licensed therapist.

For more than a year, different people who support Teddy have suggested that he could benefit from hippotherapy. Simply riding a horse causes a person to engage an awful lot of muscles, which is great for Teddy to strengthen his core. There are plenty of opportunities for fine and gross motor skill improvements as well as chances to work on his receptive and expressive communication. Basically, it is a therapy that has the potential to help Teddy's overall development.

The reasons it took us so long to commit to hippotherapy, when it sounds like such a wonderfully beneficial thing, is partly due to cost since it's not a covered service by our insurance or Teddy's county program. Also, there's not an abundance of hippotherapy programs in the area. There appear to be some therapeutic riding programs closer to our house, but the only licensed program is 45 minutes away in De Pere. Last but not least, it was one more thing to do.

Still, we thought it was worth the hassle and cost to at least try it for Teddy and see how he responded. I was quite surprised (not pleasantly) that Teddy seemed terrified of the horse when we went for his screening. (I almost typed screaming ... that's what he was doing.) They managed to get him on the horse for a quick lap after AJ rode to show him it wasn't scary. He warmed up a bit, but he was still uncertain about that giant horse.

When we arrived yesterday, we were about 10 minutes early. That gave Teddy the chance to watch through the windows as someone else finished her session. As soon as the therapist smiled and waved to Teddy, he was so excited. He watched the horse non-stop until it was time for his session, and he went right up the ramp to his horse, Dakota. (That's a whole other story ... AJ's favorite cousin's name is Dakota, so now he would like to ride a horse named Dakota.)

Maybe he needs cowboy boots.


Teddy did awesome with his first session. He did well supporting himself without slumping for about 25 minutes and then needed much more prompting to sit up properly. He interacted with the therapist and the different toys and activities. He even twice managed to get Dakota walking by patting her when the therapist said "walk on." I'm excited for him to have the opportunity to communicate by learning the signal to make Dakota walk, so it was neat to see him do it twice at his first session. I'm certain it will take more time for it to become a constant skill he does, but I already see the potential.

He really seemed to enjoy it, getting a big smile each time his horse started walking and each time he walked by where AJ and I were watching him. AJ took quite a few videos, and I even managed to use my phone long enough to do one:

video


And, if we're being real, he didn't scream, he didn't fight to get off the horse and he didn't fall off the horse because he collapsed his weight. Those were all things I thought could happen, so I would have deemed it a success if they didn't occur.

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