Local program uses horse riding therapy for its patients

JACKSON, Tenn — A therapy program has been trying an innovative way to work with its patients.

For the last 20 years dozens of children across West Tennessee have benefited from hippotherapy through the Rein-bow Riding Academy.

The term hippotherapy comes from the Greek word “hippos,” meaning horse, and riding them is how young individuals with varying abilities have been receiving therapy. It is a form of therapy through West Tennessee Healthcare’s Therapy and Learning Center.

“That type of therapy is beneficial for all children, regardless of their diagnosis, whether it’s cerebral palsy, Down syndrome or just a broad developmental delay,” said Director of the Therapy and Learning Center Ron Kwasigroh.

The horse movements are similar to the human movement patterns of the pelvis while walking, which they try to utilize.

“There’s a lot of our children who are not able to bear weight, or maybe they’ve never taken a step in their life,” Kwasigroh said. “But we can put them on the back of our horse and they get that same sensation as if they were actually walking.”

It allows patients to increase their emotional and social well being as well.

“It’s a fun way to encourage our children to grow developmentally, and doing an activity that’s fun and also therapeutic at the same time,” Kwasigroh said.

The program takes in about 75 students each year and, since most insurance does not cover hippotherapy, it has been supported through fundraising and donations.

“A lot of those families would not be able to ride and enjoy this service, and benefit from this service if it weren’t for the fact that we were scholarship them into the program,” Kwasigroh said.

And its success is also thanks to those who take their time to volunteer.

“We have individuals in our community, and corporations in our community,” Kwasigroh said. “And people who give selflessly to our program to make sure that this happens.”

Hippotherapy and therapeutic riding activities are provided at an arena in Huron. There are three riding sessions every year. Find more information about the riding therapy here.

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