After Isaac’s first birthday, he was diagnosed with global hypotonic cerebral palsy, which is “a form of the disorder marked by floppy (overly relaxed) muscles” (brainandspinalcord.org). His family got him started in all the usual therapies – occupational therapy (OT), physical therapy (PT), and speech therapy.
Shortly before Isaac turned two, his family heard about hippotherapy, a combination of OT, PT, and speech therapy involving horses to engage sensory, neuromotor, and cognitive systems in the body through equine movement in order to develop abilities such as strength, control, balance, posture, coordination, etc. After learning about the benefits, Isaac’s family started him in hippotherapy.
Riding was difficult for Isaac. He had limited speech and was unable to sit or stand without support, so his first rides required people walking on both sides of the horse who had a firm hold on his thighs. He spent many of his early lessons lying on the horse as it was led around the arena. However, Isaac enjoyed being on a horse and worked really hard to follow the therapist’s instructions. The lessons usually included singing and playing games while riding, which helped him to get a good workout without realizing how hard his body and mind were working.
Over the years, hippotherapy has successfully helped Isaac in his development. He has gotten to know the horses, and learned how to care for them. He knows that he is responsible for brushing his horse before riding and giving them a treat after the lesson. He enjoys making friends by having a community of riders, families, volunteers, and staff that are always excited to see him when he arrives for his lessons. On Halloween, the staff, volunteers, riders, and even the horses wore their best costumes as they rode from house-to-house trick-or-treating! And by focusing on his core strength, balance, and tone during his lessons, Isaac eventually was able to sit upright on his horse with perfect posture!
Today, Isaac has gained confidence in his riding. The improvements in his strength, tone, balance, and coordination allow him to ride independently, even guiding his horse through obstacle courses. Hippotherapy has transformed Isaac from a toddler unable to sit or stand without assistance; to giving up his wheelchair; to standing without his walker; to taking off the ankle foot orthoses (AFOs); to being able to walk independently!
Thank you, Denver, for providing funding to meet Isaac’s unique needs for hippotherapy!