Emerson - Participant
To whom it may concern,
Our son Emerson is 4 years old, and he has Down syndrome. Because of having DS, Emerson has low muscle tone and has been delayed hitting most of his milestones. To help Emerson with his development we decided to give hippotherapy a try, and he began doing sessions at Freedom Hills in July 2013. Before beginning at Freedom Hills, Emerson was walking with assistance, and it would take a lot of encouragement on our part to get him to try walking independently. After only 4 hippotherapy sessions, Emerson started walking independently, and now he’s just like any other little boy – we have to run to keep up with him!
Hippotherapy at Freedom Hills has clearly helped Emerson to refine his gross motor skills and has increased his independence. We also realized that shortly after beginning hippotherapy, his vocabulary started increasing (both verbal and sign language), as well as his fine motor skills. At only 2 years old, and after a total of 6 hippotherapy sessions, Emerson had mastered the skills of eating with utensils and drinking from an open cup. Emerson’s day care teachers and his physical, occupational and speech therapists all noticed the spike in his development after the first few months in hippotherapy, too – from gross motor, to fine motor, to speech skills!
Now Emerson has been riding for almost 2 years, and his development has consistently evolved since that initial spike we saw after just a few sessions. Emerson knows all of his letters and numbers 0 through 10; and he is working on more advanced fine motor skills such as cutting food with utensils and using buttons. He has been jumping in place for about a year, but recently added jumping off of raised surfaces to his skill set (he never misses the opportunity to jump off of a curb or into a puddle)! Emerson’s development has come along so well that he will be in a 4-year old Pre-K class with his peers (most will not have developmental delays) in the Fall!
Although it’s possible that Emerson was always set to develop at this pace, we’re confident that his involvement in the hippotherapy program at Freedom Hills has accelerated Emerson’s development. We have seen first-hand the importance of early intervention therapies for children with developmental delays, and the hippotherapy program at Freedom Hills has been a different, fun way to challenge Emerson and to foster his development. We started seeing physical evidence of the difference the program is making in our son’s life immediately, and we are so grateful we are able to have him in it. We truly wish that hippotherapy was included as a normal piece of the state-funded therapy that is available for children with DS and other developmental delays, so that this beneficial therapy could be available for everyone in need.
Emerson’s proud parents – Tim and Nicole Goetze
Cheyenne Keene - Participant
Cheyenne has increased her muscle tone through the use of therapeutic riding.
In addition, Cheyenne loves to compete and show what she has learned.
She also loves to encourage other riders when they do a good job with a task given. There is a good deal of teamwork amongst the riders. They try to remember their safe distance between horses.
Chris Roberts - Volunteer
I really enjoy volunteering for Freedom Hills during the V.A. rides and working with veterans. As a veteran myself, we can share stories of our active duty time. It is wonderful to see the riders confidently working around the horses. I like to see the partnership they develop while they are riding. The riders always look forward to coming back for more.
MSgt Christopher Roberts, USAF, Ret.
Mike Porter - Participant
I suffered an attack of Transverse Myelitis (TM) in the summer of 2001. The result of TM left me with various neurological problems in the spine, including the inability to walk without mechanical aids. Continuous physical therapy since that time has helped greatly. Progress has been measured in terms of small changes in distance walked, or weight lifted. Such changes accrue over time and results are achieved. However, I have never undertaken a new physical activity since the onset of TM.
I certainly would not have guessed horse back riding to be a possible new activity! And without instructors trained in therapeutic riding, it would not be. I am lucky to have someone who understands my short term limitations and how to move past those obstacles in a safe manner.
Equine Therapy is more than just "riding a horse". I had never ridden a horse before, so having someone capable of teaching me to relax during that first lesson was crucial. It was not until a few lessons later that I learned just how important a relaxed, balanced position when riding is so very important. I am glad I started learning proper form at the outset.
One of the results of TM is increased muscle tone - stiffness of the muscles. A properly trained rider will learn to obtain a feeling of balance by relaxing the eyes, neck, shoulders, hips, and ankles. I can feel the muscles loosening and working with the horse when riding. I am learning to apply these skills to everyday activities such as walking and am starting to see results.
It is rare to see a therapy provide results so quickly, but few therapies work in the same fashion. My physical therapist has flatly refused to provide hour-long piggy back rides! Perhaps this is why he too endorses equine facilitated therapy. No one can predict the complete benefits I will receive from riding, however the results I have already received and excitement of meeting a new challenge make equine therapy very worthwhile.