Animals and Aquatics

TOP Four Reasons I love hippotherapy in OT

February 14, 2023 gina taylor
Show Notes Transcript

I'm excited to share with you today a little bit of information about Hippotherapy as an occupational therapy treatment tool. If you're not familiar with hippotherapy, we're gonna go over what the description of it is, how it's used in occupational therapy, and some of my favorite things about hippotherapy. So the term hippotherapy refers to how occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech language pathology professionals use evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning in the purposeful manipulation of equine movement as a therapy tool to engage sensory neuromotor and cognitive systems to promote functional outcomes. Best practice dictates the occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech language pathology professionals integrate hippotherapy into the patient's plan of care, along with other therapy tools and or strategies. So to break that down, it means that hippotherapy is a tool that we're using along with other occupational therapy tools in our patient's plan of care. Hippotherapy isn't a standalone therapy or treatment, it's not a program. It's something that we use as one tool in our toolbox, and I'd like to go over some of the tools. Or the systems that Hippotherapy is used to assist with. So of course I'm gonna talk about the sensory system first, cuz that's my favorite. And as someone who's certified in sensory integration, I think that is the main frame or reference that I tend to look at things at, whether it's Hippotherapy or some of the other tools that I use. The way that hippotherapy or the movement of the horse can really impact the whole body is especially powerful to me. So we have vestibular input because we're, we're moving through stiff base. We have vertical displacement as the horses back moves up and down. We have visual flow right as we're moving again through space. We have auditory, we have the sound of the horse's feet falling on different surfaces. We have the sound of. The horse themselves, right? Whether they Winnie or Nay. We have the sounds of the barn or the farm environment, so there's a lot of auditory input We have. Olfactory input. Some of it is very positive and some of it's a little bit more noxious. So we can think about, you know, how that might impact our clients. And then geator or taste, if we think about, well, you know, the movement of the horse isn't really giving us any taste or taste sensations, but I do like to pair. Giving maybe the horse a snack with a healthy snack for the child. Since I primarily work in pediatrics, those two things work really well for me together. Other systems that are impacted by equine movement would be the attention and arousal systems. It is. Perceived as, you know, somewhat of more of a risky play type of situation, right? Being on a very large animal can increase arousal. Being on a moving animal that you're not really in control of can increase arousal. So we have, you know, both those components going on. And also the impact to the attention system because there's a lot of novelty when we're out in the equine environment. There's a lot of novelty in the movement of the horse. So those. Are both affecting those attention systems. Now, when we think about hippotherapy, maybe you think about more the motor side. So thinking about balance, strength, coordination, motor planning, and those are all impacted and there's a lot as a therapist, we can do to manipulate those components. We can, you know, speed the horse up, slow the horse down. We can have. The child motor planning, you know, the single leg stance to transfer onto the horse or how do we transfer off? We can change positioning on the horse. And that's a component of motor planning as well. So there's a lot of motor aspects. We have feet forward, we have feedback. There's a lot of intrinsic feedback going on with the movement of the horse, and I think those are all very effecti. Ways of accessing those motor systems. And we can also think about equine movement as priming the system. So with something like respiration, right, the movement of the horse is very rhythmic, and so we have an impact on the respiratory system, both from that. Postural side of, you know, improving postural alignment, alignment, opening up the ribcage and diaphragm, but also for rhythmicity in respiration, we can see changes there as far as priming the systems. I also see that with the digestive and elimination systems. So with the movement of the horse, we have concussion. We have a lot of movement of the digestive system. So often parents will report to me that the child will have bowel movement after the movement of the horse kind of gets things going. So from a systems perspective, I always think of hippotherapy as really impacting, you know, the sensory systems, attention, arousal, the motor systems that posture, alignment, and balance. But then also, Some of the other systems for, you know, better regulation and better performance. Then when I think about activities you know, kind of thinking about it from an activities perspective, the thing that sticks out to me the most is motivation. That the movement of the horse is motivating for a lot of kids. They, it feels good to their body. It's something that they want more of, and so they're motivated in ways. I can't motivate them on a ball or I can't motivate them quite the same way on the swing. It's also, you know, for kids that the social aspect is big, the horse is motivating in that there's a bit of a relationship between them and the horse. So there's a, an intrinsic motivation there and. When I'm mindful of it, that allows me to step back a little bit and stop providing as much external feedback or external motivators and really let that internal motivating system be strengthened by the activities that we're we're doing in this context. And then the contextual side of things, right? We're in. A novel environment. We're in a community-based environment. We're in an environment that may be unfamiliar to some of our clients. So, you know, helping them understand safety rules and what's appropriate can really be great for carryover into other social aspects or other community-based settings for them. So for me, as an occupational therapist, I can really look at. Hippotherapy and being in that equine environment as a motivator, I can look at it as providing a lot of contextual cues that can then be carried over to other community-based settings. And no matter what I'm doing, I'm always looking at that carryover piece. And in Hippotherapy, we really wanna make sure that what we're doing there is then going to be carried over to other settings that that client might be in. We wanna make sure. That the types of skills and activities we're working on. I do have really good carryover and I find that because PA participation is so high when we are, you know, tapping into those internal motivation systems that we really do see an improvement in performance overall. So I look at then that social relationship when we're using hippotherapy, we are treat. Team. It's not just the therapist and the client where we might be, you know, in a more traditional clinic setting or even in a sensory clinic. You know, we have a horse handler, right? And we have the horse and we have therapist. We may have another therapy aid. So, you know, there could be as many as four people. Plus the client and the horse. And that is a lot of social or relationship components to manage as a therapist, but also for the client to interact with. So, you know, if we leverage those to our benefit, we really have a lot of opportunities for the client to work on social skills and to work on relationship building. And in some cases, you know, Primary relationship might be with the horse. It may not be one of the, the people on the treatment team. But then as we build rapport and as the child builds skills, they can carry those over into other relationships both with family members, with peers and with a treatment team. So from a participation standpoint, I like the fact that, you know, it is a team environment. And the horse is included in the team. The client is included in the team, and we do have other people. So that helps kind of with that rapport building. And we have more options for the client to work on skills. And it's not just with a trained therapist where we know like the best way to prompt and we know the best way to set them up. But if we have, you know, a horse handler, they're still gonna interact socially with them, but they may not give the same kinds of cues and that really makes the client have to be more flexible. It has to, they have to be a bit more pragmatic and understanding some of those social cues or reading the body language of the person. I also love that in the hippotherapy environment, we can be, Play based, we can include a lot of different types of play skills, so we can work on again, that. Motor piece. As far as play goes, we can do some movement exploration. We can do a little bit of what feels like risky play, even though we're setting it up in a safe situation. And we can work on, you know, take, turn, taking, we can work on following directions. We can com. Put a lot of the components for play into our sessions and that can be a really effective way as an occupational therapist to target play where again, we're, we're using that motivation side of things to be more effective. So I think. To wrap it up the things that I love best about Hippotherapy as an occupational therapist is that it's naturally motivating for my clients, and that makes my job a thousand times easier. That. When you are really well versed in equine movement and horses and the environment, it makes it easy to grade the input. I can, I can really be very, very nuanced just with the movement that I'm using, and then I can layer in kind of like lasagna, whether I want to add school figures or, or different environments inside, outside, or if I wanna add activities in, that all comes in together. And, you know, being able to grade the input really helps me get that just right challenge. I love the variety, so I can have variety in the environment that I work in. I can have variety in the horses that I choose. I can have variety in the equipment that I'm going to use. I can have variety in the activities that I'm going to layer on top of equine movement. For me, I'm a person who likes a lot of change. I don't necessarily like things to be the same treatment session to treatment session. So having that variety is helpful for me to keep my engagement and to help me with, you know, burnout. And I think the last thing I would say of one of the perks of using hippotherapy is getting to be outside. I love being able to, you know, be in touch with nature and. And you know, on a sunny day in the spring or a sunny day in the fall, it's really just the best of, you know, walking around, getting movement in my own body, seeing the client benefit from the movement of the horse, feeling the sun on my face. And I think that's just a great way to work as an occupational therapist. Thanks.