ACCESS-ABILITY Volume3_Issue2 - Page 10

HORSEPOWER: HIPPOTHERAPY WITH MR. GILLESPIE By Jason Gillespie At t h e begin n in g of t h e year , t h e BRIDGE pr ogr am t eam ed u p w it h St r on gw at er Far m in Tew k sbu r y, M A. Equ in e t h er apy h as exist ed as a t h er apy f or people w it h special n eeds sin ce t h e 1940s, bu t t h e belief t h at h or ses can be t h er apeu t ic dat es back t o t h e an cien t Gr eek s. Today, equ in e t h er apy is f ocu sed on pr om ot in g em ot ion al an d ph ysical gr ow t h . Th e t h er apy h as been su ccessf u lly im plem en t ed w it h st u den t s w it h ADHD, an xiet y, au t ism , developm en t al delay, an d depr ession . Hor ses ar e pr im ar ily u sed f or t h eir abilit y t o dir ect ly r espon d t o a per son?s beh avior w h ile n ear by, as w ell as du r in g r idin g. Hor ses ar e believed t o beh ave lik e h u m an bein gs socially; t h er ef or e, it is easy f or st u den t s t o est ablish con n ect ion s w it h t h em . We ch ose St r on gw at er Far m f or ou r st u den t s du e t o t h eir cu r r icu lu m on r eadin g social cu es as w ell as t h e access t o t h e classr oom an d st ables. We ch ose an u n m ou n t ed cu r r icu lu m f or t h e f ir st session s t o est ablish a con n ect ion w it h t h e h or ses an d t o develop a r espect an d u n der st an din g of t h eir n eeds. St r on gw at er is on e of a f ew est ablish m en t s t h at is r ecogn ized as bein g PATH accr edit ed (Pr of ession al Associat ion of Th er apeu t ic Hor sem an sh ip). PATH accr edit at ion en su r es t h e in st r u ct or s ar e k n ow ledgeable in bot h car e f or t h e h or ses an d t each in g t h e t h er apeu t ic cu r r icu lu m . We h ave been goin g w eek ly t o t h e f ar m sin ce Oct ober 13. Five st u den t s an d f ive t each er s at t en d each w eek . Each t im e w e ar e gr eet ed w it h car e an d en t h u siasm . Th e session s alw ays begin in t h e classr oom an d last f or 15-20 m in u t es. In t h e begin n in g, t h e classr oom session s r evolved ar ou n d get t in g t o k n ow t h e st u den t s an d t each er s. Th e cu r r icu lu m t h en f ocu sed on h ow t o con n ect ou r st u den t s t o t h e h or ses saf ely an d t h er apeu t ically. Th e f ir st t opic in clu ded lear n in g h ow h or ses expr ess t h eir f eelin gs an d com par in g t h em t o h u m an s. Th en w e m oved on t o gr oom in g h or ses an d h ygien e an d h ow t h at com par es t o h u m an s. Th e t h ir d t opic w as abou t t h e diet of h or ses an d h u m an s an d h ow t h is r elat es t o h ealt h . Cu r r en t ly w e ar e w or k in g on r eadin g t h e body lan gu age of h or ses an d h u m an s. Dir ect ly f ollow in g t h e classr oom session s ar e t h e h an ds-on act ivit ies in t h e st ables. Th e f ir st lesson s w er e abou t h ow t o gr eet h or ses an d t h e r u les t o f or m a posit ive r elat ion sh ip. Th e n ext lesson s r elat ed t o t h e t ools t h at ar e u sed t o gr oom t h e h or ses an d t ak e car e of t h em . As w it h ever y session , t h e st u den t s ar e exposed t o t h e m at er ials an d get t o in t er act w it h t h em in an in t en t ion al m an n er . Th e t h ir d set of lesson s w as abou t h ow t o in t er act an d w alk w it h t h e h or se an d h ow t o com m u n icat e ef f ect ively.