Occupational therapy promotes health, well-being, and participation. Occupational therapists focus on the things a client wants and needs to do in their daily life. Occupational therapy intervention uses everyday life activities (occupations) to promote health, well-being, and a client’s ability to participate in the important activities in their life. This includes any meaningful activity that a person wants to accomplish, including getting dressed, eating a meal, playing with friends, going to school, among many others.
Occupational therapy services include: An individualized evaluation that lets us know your child’s history, strengths, and interests. We call this an occupational profile, and it tells us what values and activities are important to your child and family during this conversation. An intervention plan that is unique to your child to improve their ability to perform daily activities and reach their goals. (AOTA, 2023)
Hippotherapy, according to the American Hippotherapy Association (AHA, Inc.), “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 movements to engage sensory, neuromotor, and cognitive systems to achieve functional outcomes. In conjunction with the affordances of the equine movement and other treatment strategies, hippotherapy is part of a patient’s integrated plan of care.”
A horse’s movement promotes active responses in the client which are intended to impact function. The horse provides multi-modal sensorimotor experiences that are precise, rhythmic, and repetitive, all of which are necessary for most human behavior.
The horse lends an organized nervous system which allows a client to experience organized multidimensional movement and multisensory input. The horse’s movement provides a repetitive, predictable, and symmetrical dynamic surface on which the patient can develop and practice functional postural control and balance. The horse provides multi-dimensional movement through space, which provides opportunities to experience visual flow and vestibular input within a functional context.
For most clients, the experience of the horse’s movement is a novel one, allowing for development of movement strategies outside of the habitual patterns. The natural variability of the equine environment is functional and promotes problem solving.
Hippotherapy inherently involves movement and establishes a human-animal interaction. Therefore, hippotherapy may not be an appropriate treatment strategy for all clients. Please consult with your therapist and physician.
Hippotherapy is a treatment strategy that is meaningful and can be functionally relevant, specifically addressing impairments in tone, range of motion, timing, attention, arousal, coordination, balance, and postural control. Individuals with a wide variety of disabilities and diagnoses can benefit from the integration of hippotherapy into their current plan of care, along with other therapy tools and/or strategies.
The horse and the equine environment is motivational and encourages the development of relationships while enhancing mobility (AHA Inc).
Arousal and attention
Mobility of pelvis, spine, and hip joints
Oral motor function
Dynamic postural stability
Problem solving movement strategies
Expressive receptive speech and language
Symmetry and alignment
Timing and motor coordination
Mary earned her Doctorate of OT from Belmont University. She has experience in multiple pediatric settings including outpatient intervention, schools, and early intervention. Mary is specially trained in providing occupational therapy services utilizing hippotherapy from the American Hippotherapy Association and has been providing animal assisted occupational therapy services since 2017. Mary believes in using a child-centered, play-based approach to help kids be kids and reach their goals. Mary loves including caregivers in her treatment sessions and working with families to help them feel empowered in helping their child reach their full potential. Mary also has specialized in the evaluation and treatment of children with Sensory Processing Disorders with training from the STAR Institute in Denver, Colorado and in using the DIR/Floortime model in treatment. She has additional specialized training in feeding therapy using the SOS Approach to feeding. Mary loves watching kids light up and work towards their goals in our unique treatment setting with a horse as her favorite therapy partner. In her free time, Mary enjoys spending time outside gardening, hiking, or being on the water, reading a good book, and spending time with family, friends and pets.