Stevie Enjoys the Benefits of Hippotherapy
My husband and I wanted to thank the Italian Welfare League again for providing our son the opportunity to benefit so greatly from hippotherapy; it has been so wonderful for him in all the ways we thought it would be and in ways we never even considered.
We chose to focus on occupational therapy, and from the first few seconds of the first session at the beginning of the summer, his relationship with his therapist has fostered many achievements. We expected it would take Stevie several sessions just to get comfortable and willing enough to wear his helmet to get on a horse and that his first sessions would be spent doing activities off the horse. However, his therapist had him - unbelievably - wearing his helmet without protest within the first few minutes of meeting him, and while he often wants it off the second he senses the end of the session, he is perfectly happy with it on. In his hippotherapy sessions he is regularly doing exercises that work on his grip strength and the strength of his shoulder girdle, and just being on the horse addresses weaknesses in his abdomen and his neck. These, and several others that I imagined as OT goals that would be addressed through hippotherapy, are continually being addressed in such a beautiful and enjoyable way, Stevie doesn't even realize how hard he is working. But that is just the beginning!
Since starting hippotherapy and riding facing forwards, sideways, and even backward, he seems to be more comfortable in different positions. He gets less upset about laying back to be changed when we are not home, but more than that, he has even started participating in some - still very controlled, but closer to typical - physical "horsing around" play that has brought him so much joy. Additionally, the social aspect of hippotherapy has been wonderful. At each session, he converses with his therapist and 2 volunteer helpers, and they go on and on afterward about how chatty, interesting, silly, curious, smart, and happy he is. My husband and I know all of these things already, but every opportunity for interaction is good especially when it fosters these qualities and others such as compassion, empathy, and information gathering as he is encouraged to ask questions to learn about the others in the group and taught to provide care for the horses he rides in ways like brushing his mane or slowing to let him rest.
These are just the glaringly obvious benefits that the IWL has given us the opportunity to give to our son; there are so many more, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.