Big Progress in a short amount of time... HIppotherapy on the simulator, by children's physiotherapist kirsty scales
Vranch House is a school and therapy centre in Exeter that supports children between the ages of 0-19 with a wide range of moderate to severe physical disabilities, or who may have a combination of additional needs, including complex medical needs and multisensory (visual and/or hearing) impairments. Whilst we have some more-cognitively able pupils, most of our pupils experience specific or global learning needs and others have profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD). The majority of the children accessing our services require support with core/upper/lower limb strength, head control, sitting/standing balance, co-ordination, low tone, increased muscle spasticity, communication and participation in activities of daily.
A holistic approach to children's therapies
Vranch House offers a holistic approach to therapy and we are passionate about offering alternative methods to make it fun, exciting and unique for the children who attend. One method we were keen to offer was Hippotherapy (which comes from the Ancient Greek words meaning "Horse"/Hippos and "treatment" /therapy.) Hippotherapy utilises the natural movement of the horse during its walk phase of gait, which provides a rhythmic, repetitive and three-dimensional movement through a dynamic base of support and has been suggested to replicate the therapeutic movement of walking on the human pelvis.
Incorporating a Horse Simulator
Access to riding centres and facilities within the community can be challenging for many of our children and access to a mechanical horse would enable us to provide Hippotherapy in a safe and controlled environment. In November 2021 we were very generously donated a grant from the Masonic Charitable Foundation for a Racewood mechanical Riding Simulator, to be able to provide a Hippotherapy service. The Hippotherapy service is still being developed and at present we have 35 children accessing the mechanical horse, with many more children on the waiting list for assessments to access the therapy. We have just had hoisting installed which will further increase the access for more children to enjoy Hippotherapy.
Already seeing improvements
Since using the mechanical horse, we have seen so many improvements in children’s balance, mobility, communication and participation in the their activities of daily living. Parents have commented on children’s improvements in their ability to;-
- sit up in their midline
- maintain balance whilst reaching out for toys
- progression from supported to independent walking
The most rewarding outcome for the staff and parents is seeing how much the children enjoy the sessions, laughing and smiling throughout and always asking for more!
As a team our favourite thing about training with the mechanical horse has been the ability to complete the children’s therapy programme whilst seeing them work extremely hard towards their goals without realising as they are so engaged, motivated and having a lot of fun all at the same time. The mechanical horse is really hard work for our children who face challenges every day with their strength and balance and seeing the progress that has been made in a short amount of time has been really rewarding.
We are very grateful to have been given the opportunity to purchase a Racewood Riding Simulator by the Masonic Charitable Foundation and we can’t wait to see what the future of Hippotherapy brings for our patients at Vranch House.
If you would like to find out more about Vranch House and their Hippotherapy programme, or if you would like to discuss how a simulator could benefit your school or facility, please get in touch with a member of our team.