Have you ever heard of hippotherapy? Well, it has nothing to do with hippos.
It uses certified physical, occupational and speech therapists to turn the movements of a horse into new opportunities for children and adults, who suffer from a range of physical and mental disabilities. There is also something called therapeutic riding that is changing lives one ride at a time.
Helmet, vest and boots, 11-year-old Betty Lujan is ready to ride.
"From birth, you know, the odds have been against her," Jennifer Lujan said.
Born at just 3 pounds, doctors said she would always be in a vegetative state. But don’t tell Betty that.
A horse named Socks has changed her life.
Licensed therapist Beth Godbey, founder of Equine Empowerment, is a believer.
"I’ve worked with clients for a year in just an office-type setting and can get further in an hour with a horse sometimes than that whole year,” Godbey said.
Professional horse woman LaurieAnn Nelson, Founder and Executive Director of Montrose Therapeutic Riding Center, has been putting people on horses for 40 years.
"Hippotherapy, for instance, is a four-beat gate on the horse," Nelson said.
Hippotherapy and therapeutic riding can help all types of people.
For people with Autism, it kind of focuses them onto the horse, Nelson said.
"So with riders with physical disabilities, I really see a lot of relaxing," according to Linda Field, a MTRC path instructor.
It can help people with digestive problems.
"That’s moving that GI tract around, and they cannot do that when they’re sitting in a chair," Nelson said.
Even people suffering from arthritis can feel the healing power of a horse.
"Just doing this right here, they’re using their wrists, their using their arm, and their using their fingers," Nelson said.
“The first time Betty got on, and seeing her so tall and us looking up at her, and seeing her smile like that is something that I’ll never forget for my entire life,” Godbey said.
And for people suffering from MS, Parkinson’s and PTSD, hippotherapy and therapeutic riding helps their balance, un-tighten muscles, strengthen their core and changes their outlook.