Anything worth doing is worth doing correctly. This is especially true when it involves powerful animals and vulnerable people. Horses are amazing animals who have been working alongside humans since approximately 3000 B.C. They are intelligent and gentle animals who have assisted their human companions in a variety of ways. Hippotherapy is one way that horses can assist humans with mobility limitations. While the horses called on to do these tasks are carefully chosen, and even more carefully trained, they are still animals that can weigh upwards of 2000 lbs. Having the proper equipment for hippotherapy ensures safety for both the horse and rider.
Those with mobility limitations will need assistance mounting the horse. There are many options for this. Mounting platforms with wheelchair ramps can be used to bring the user closer to the horse. The user can then use a stand pivot transfer onto the horse.
Lift systems for the handicapped can be used to transfer a rider onto the back of the horse comfortably and safely. This is especially useful when a rider is heavier or has limited movements and weight bearing abilities. It is also useful for those who struggle to do a pivot transfer.
In many cases, riders with limited mobility find the lift mount easier and remain more physically and mentally relaxed at the start of therapy. Having a relaxed horse and rider is ideal to get the maximum benefits from therapy.
Trying to manually assist a user with limited mobility onto the back of a horse for hippotherapy can be upsetting for both horse and rider.
The American Hippotherapy Association recommends the use of helmets for all hippotherapy participants who can wear them safely. Helmets can help prevent intracranial damage from impacts. They can also eliminate or minimize severity of head lacerations. In some states, helmets are a requirement for all riders.
In hippotherapy it is vital that the rider be able to feel the movement of the horse beneath them while also remaining safely on the horse.
For some riders, this means using soft saddles that allow the rider to better feel the horse’s movements. For others, this may involve saddles with supportive backs and straps to keep the rider safely mounted.
Safety stirrups release the foot of the rider if the rider unexpectedly falls from the horse. This prevents dragging and lowers the risk of being trampled.
Hippotherapy is beneficial to many individuals, but like so many interventions there are risks along with benefits. Proper equipment helps to minimize those risks and increase comfort and enjoyment for both horse and rider.
If you live in Massachusetts, Connecticut, or Rhode Island and would like more information on lifts and ramps used in hippotherapy call (508) 802-4259 to speak to an expert at Lift and Care Systems. We will be happy to assist you in finding the perfect hippotherapy equipment to meet your needs.