Horses might not be what first leaps to mind when thinking about accessing Physiotherapy.

But Hippotherapy, a therapeutic tool utilised by physiotherapists using the movements of a horse to provide motor and sensory input to achieve therapeutic goals, is an important factor in Rocky Bay customer Henry’s ongoing physical and social development.

Henry Duca is four years old and one of five children currently accessing Hippotherapy at Rocky Bay.

Henry was diagnosed with Pierre Robin Sequence (PRS) primarily affecting the formation of his jaw and palate, Tetralogy of Fallot (ToF), which is a congenital heart condition, Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, and dysphagia, resulting in difficulties with breathing and swallowing.

Since accessing Hippotherapy, alongside a range of Rocky Bay services, Henry has made significant gains in his strength and mobility.

The story continues...

Henry’s Father, Simon Duca explains how the weekly sessions targeting his core balance, strength, and mobility, are having huge impacts.

“Hippotherapy is about balance, strength and improved mobility, and it’s made huge impacts on his walking ability,” Mr Duca said.

“His muscle strength has increased, and it’s been so beneficial for his overall development.

“It’s not just normal horse sitting, he sits backwards and sidewards, and everything is intended with a purpose to work on some part of the body.

“He bounces with the horses’ movements, it takes a lot of work for him to do that, and he spends about 30 minutes on the horse, a good amount of time.

“We can’t speak highly enough of the program; the volunteers and Rocky Bay physiotherapist Ellen Phillips have done a great job in working with Henry.

“Ellen knows him so well; she is very patient with him especially as Henry likes to do his own thing at times.”

“Hippotherapy is a really nice activity for us to do together – our father son bonding time,” Mr Duca concluded.

How we helped

Rocky Bay Physiotherapist Ellen Phillips says she has seen so much improvement in Henry since he started accessing Hippotherapy.

“Henry has come in leaps and bounds since starting the program,” Ms Phillips said.

“The rhythmic movement of the horse imitates the movement of the human pelvis when walking, and the horses’ steps of 95 to 110 repetitions per minute provides Henry with the opportunity to practice these movements with high repetition.

“This has enabled Henry to make significant gains in his gait pattern, four-point kneeling, balance reactions and muscle strength.

“It’s a joy to see Henry participate in therapy sessions that are enjoyable, meaningful and engaging for him,” Ms Phillips concluded.

The relationship between horse and customer is very important, with the personality between Henry and his horse Swindy aligning.

“Swindy is a calm, placid type of horse and Henry is a tactile quite person, so they match really well,” Mr Duca said.

RDA BrookValley Farm is where Henry and other Rocky Bay customers access Hippotherapy, a completely volunteer run operation.

Henry was the second participant in the Telethon Funded Early Start Intervention Program, which had abled him to fast track his development.

“From where he was at the start of that program to where he is today, he’s come on leaps and bounds, we couldn’t recommend ESIP and the Rocky Bay services as a whole enough,” Mr Duca said.

A few words


We can’t speak highly enough of the program; the volunteers and Rocky Bay physiotherapist Ellen Phillips have done a great job in working with Henry

- Simon Duca

Customer Henry Duca accessing Hippotherapy services.

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