Hippotherapy, or therapeutic horseback riding, uses the movement of horses to help individuals improve their neuromotor function, including coordination, balance, and strength.
On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe visits Miracles in Motion, where children and adults with special needs come for hippotherapy and therapeutic riding lessons.
During her visit, she talks with president of the board Lois James, physical therapist Marybeth Hichwa, volunteer coordinator Jan Gorman, and parents of children taking lessons at Miracles in Motion, about the power of these gentle horses.
“Some of these children are not able to sit up," Gorman says. “Then the next week, I’m serious, they’re sitting up. And the next week, they're sitting up with less support."
James shares a similar experience.
“You can sometimes even feel the muscles in their legs being strengthened, moving as they’re trying to keep their balance on the horse,” James says. “It’s amazing that from one class a week you can see a difference.”
The benefits of hippotherapy and therapeutic riding are not just physical. For Vietnam veteran Ken Manley, who runs a horse care class for other veterans at Miracles in Motion, working with horses can provide an emotional grounding that impacts people of all ages and abilities.
"Part of the reason horses make such good therapy animals for veterans is, being a prey animal, they don't naturally trust; and us veterans sometimes have that same problem," Manly says.
"They are the mirror to your soul, and that's why they work so well in the vets program. If you're anxious, they're anxious. If you're calm, they're calm."