Cerebral Palsy, Michigan, Therapy

Hippotherapy

Getting instructions
Getting Ready: Helmet On

I was feeling a bit anxious about our big day on Thursday, I wanted everything to go well. We would be driving, well, my mom would be driving us, nearly an hour and fifteen minutes to our first hippotherapy lesson in Tecumseh. I was looking forward to a session of therapy that I thought would be fun for Sebastian (and me!). I like horses and hoped that Sebastian would too. What fun we had!

It took over two hours to get there due to a wrong turn through beautiful country roads and quaint old towns. Sand Hill Cranes nibbling on roadside pebbles and a couple of dark rolling clouds and raucous downpours of rain until we discovered we had gone the wrong way. Thankfully there was another slot an hour after ours so we would still make a session. Sebastian was relaxed and enjoying the ride, which is not usual for him as he’s more of a fan of public transportation.

When we arrived we had about fifteen minutes before our lesson. We watched another little girl on the horse and got Sebastian acquainted with his surroundings. The therapy is through The Right Steps hippotherapy program and our therapist was wonderful. Sebastian was very comfortable with her as she explained to him about putting the helmet on. He doesn’t like to have his head touched, but was uncommonly calm while she attached a helmet on his noggin. It was a little big so we will have another one for the next session. Even though, he was able to maneuver his head well and did his best to work against gravity with the extra weight. He did give in sometimes and was not always able to have his head up during the ride. This is definitely an area that I can see improving over time.

Side Saddle
First Position: Side Saddle

Sebastian sat side saddle and his legs stiffened up a bit when he was placed on Snazzy, the horse. He had petted her a bit before getting on but wasn’t entirely sure what was about to happen next. We went around a couple times with him seated this way and then he was able to relax and move facing forward. He loved it. He was happiest when we were moving and even happier when Snazzy decided to move a little faster, not quite a trot but close. I could tell the bouncing motion was comfortable and fun for him and he started to make some noise whenever we stopped, being sure to let us know to keep going!

Ready to Ride
Second Position: Facing Forward (notice him bearing weight on his arms!)

Sebastian was doing a great job bearing weight on his arms, and when we called his attention he worked against gravity and the helmet and lifted his head to look in our direction. It was a lot of work to keep up at all times so Becky also added a bolster for him to put his arms on and lean forward. He seemed happy about this and sat himself up straight as we went to the mirror to see himself sitting atop Snazzy.

Leaning forward on the Bolster
Third Position: Facing Forward and Leaning on Bolster

For the final position, our OT, Becky, put him on his tummy. I wasn’t sure how he would do but I think this was his favorite position! He immediately started smiling as I walked next to him, he bounced a bit and started to laugh. He was able to bend and lean on one of his elbows as well. I wish we could practice tummy time like this every day!

Tummy Time
Fourth Position: Tummy Time

Sebastian sat with Becky after getting off the horse to give her a peppermint treat. He was very interested in Snazzy. He couldn’t stop smiling as we walked to the car talking about what he just did. Once in the car he would break out into a smile whenever we mentioned riding the horse. His happiness combined with mine brought tears down my cheeks. It felt so wonderful to have him experience something so fun. There are so many fun things he doesn’t get to experience physically that it felt so unbelievable fulfilling to see him sitting atop that big horse having the time of his life.

We can’t wait till next week.

For the rest of the photos and two videos: Hippotherapy on flickr

This post has been cross posted with Seb Can Do.

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2 thoughts on “Hippotherapy”

  1. Oh Kara, I have tears coming down my cheeks, as well, after reading your post and looking at your pictures. I can’t imagine the emotion you must have felt seeing Sebastian enjoy himself, so. It is a beautiful thing to see you both experience so much joy. XOXO

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  2. I love this. I am so incredibly happy for Seb. It brought tears to my eyes that he did so well on his first ride. I truly believe in the healing power of animals. I volunteered in high school for a program that enabled children with unique backgrounds to ride horses. It was a wonderful thing to be a part of and I am so happy to see Sebastian enjoying himself with Snazzy. Can’t wait to hear about his adventure next week. Must have been an amazing moment for you Kara. Hugs.

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