Anthony canters to success with hippotherapy

Sep 15, 2022

Young boy Anthony smiles at the camera wearing a blue horse riding helmet. In the background is an equistrian facility with a horse and several helpers walking beside it.

September 8 was World Physical Therapy Day – a day to acknowledge the hard work and dedication shown by Physiotherapists. Physios help their customers regain some independence, confidence and mobility whilst assisting them to reach set goals. The different kinds of Physical Therapy that can assist customers is ever evolving.

Rocky Bay Physiotherapist, Ellen Phillips, has been working alongside Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) as Rocky bay trials a hippotherapy pilot!

Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) has been around since 1964 and is a not-for-profit organisation that harnesses the therapeutic power of horses to transform the physical health and emotional wellbeing of children, young people and adults with diverse abilities and mental health issues.

Rocky Bay has recently participated in a pilot program with RDA to see what benefits customers could gain by bringing this therapy on board. The results have been extraordinary with one young customer walking up steps unassisted for the first time – after only one session. 

Ellen has been a Physiotherapist for five years and obtained her certification in Hippotherapy in September 2021. She has been working with 12-year-old Anthony Chan through his Hippotherapy course in Bullsbook (Brook Valley Farm) and has been amazed at the strides he is making since beginning this course. 

Anthony was born with Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome (HRHS), autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and Global Development Delay (GDD). At the age of two, Anthony suffered a stroke due to his HRHS and lost the ability to move the left side of his body. He has been in therapy since and is now walking again and is able to use his left hand, though he has not regained full functionality and needs help on uneven ground and steps. 

“After his first session at RDA Anthony amazed me.” says Lynne Chan, Antony’s mum.

“I went to hold his hand to help him climb the steps and for the first time he told me he could do it himself and went up unassisted.” 

Ellen explains that the horse moves the rider’s body in a manner like a human gait, so riders with physical needs often show improvement in balance, muscle strength and flexibility. The improvement in these areas, as well as being able to get on top of the horse, also helps improve confidence. 

Anthony is also now able to stand unassisted on one leg – something he could not do before starting Hippotherapy.  

Hippotherapy was brought about after WWI. An amputee didn’t want to lay around in bed and asked to be taken around on a horse – the movement of being on the horse helped blood flow and sped up the healing process, as well as helping the soldier mentally and socially as he was no longer confined to a bed.  

Since then, RDA was created and has grown around Australia with many different locations and classes and has seen Her Royal Highness Princess Anne become the patron in 1984.  

RDA riders have also won 2 gold and 2 bronze medals from the Sydney Paralympics and had 5 riders compete at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics in dressage.  

“A physical, cognitive, or emotional special need does not limit a person from interacting with horses. Such interactions have proven to have major physical and emotional impacts,” says President of RDA Bullsbrook, Ally Donovan. 

For those customers who are unable to mount a horse or are in a wheelchair, there are carriage drives they can participate in which allows them a feeling of independence which in turn increases their confidence and self-esteem. 

“He just smiles so much when he is on the horse” says Ellen.

“The first time he got on the horse he wasn’t sure, but now he loves it and leans down and cuddles the horse and removes his hands to play with a toy I give him – which helps build those core muscles as well as building up his confidence.” 

Physical Therapy has always been and will continue to be so imperative in the lives of those with disability – helping guide them to lead their best life possible. Hippotherapy has proven to be a successful and engaging therapy to help not only the physical needs of a customer, but the psychological and social skills as well. 

“The difference in Anthony’s confidence and physical abilities since starting Hippotherapy has been amazing – we will definitely be continuing.” says Lynne.

To learn more about Physical Therapy at Rocky Bay head to click here or contact the team at 6282 1900. 

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