We recently visited a clinic for children with developmental disabilities where therapists are using horses to provide occupational and physical therapy. It's called hippotherapy and at McKenna Farms in Dallas, Georgia, the patients range from autistic children to those with physical disabilities, such as cerebral palsy.
We met one four year-old boy named Noah, whose cerebral palsy prevents him from sitting upright or fully using his hands or legs. For Noah, doing his therapy while riding on the horse helps him build strength in his trunk muscles that will help him work towards the goal of keeping his body upright and head up. His therapists also say that, since the stride length and pace of the horse so closely mimic the human stride, these hippotherapy sessions are helping his brain and muscles learn the patterns involved in walking. They are also of the the few times he gets to experience what it might feel like to walk.
Noah's mom says the horses have made a huge difference in her son's life. He loves the animals and finds motivation to work harder. And what's more, he's found something he truly loves doing.
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