Hippotherapy program moves to stable


McDowell Wellness Center has used horses for several years as part of its rehabilitation program for pediatric patients. The concept is known as hippotherapy. The Wellness Center is enhancing its hippotherapy program by relocating it from the Wellness Center to a nearby stable.

McDowell Wellness Center's hippotherapy services are provided at a stable on Cliffside Farm, located on Chenault Bridge Road just off Ky. 34 in Garrard County. The stable, owned by Blair Cunningham, is within 10 miles of the Wellness Center.

"Having an indoor stable is a great enhancement for our hippotherapy program," said Lisa Dreager, licensed occupational therapist and director of the program. "It allows us to offer services for a longer period during the year, and also provides more comfortable conditions for both our patients and the horses we use for therapeutic purposes."

The hippotherapy program assists children with diagnoses such as autism, cerebral palsy, sensory integration disorder, spina bifida, developmental delays, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and learning disabilities.


Through the program, participants engage in therapeutic activities on a horse as part of a comprehensive rehabilitation plan. The horse is used as a therapeutic tool to promote the child's motor coordination, range of motion, tactile skills, visual perceptual skills, speech and language skills, tolerance for transitions, attention and self-esteem. Services are provided by occupational, speech and physical therapists.

Until recently, hippotherapy services were provided in a gated area on the lawn at McDowell Wellness Center. The area did not provide shade or shelter, and services were provided despite rain or hot weather.

McDowell Wellness Center now is leasing the stable at Cliffside Farm and providing services there 21/2 days each week. Cunningham, the stable owner, has allowed the Wellness Center to use her horse, "Blaze," the last two years in the hippotherapy program.

"We really appreciate Blair's generosity in renovating the stalled barn into an indoor arena," said Leslie Hardman, licensed occupational therapist and manager of rehabilitation services at McDowell Wellness Center. "She has participated in the program as a knowledgeable and dedicated volunteer. We would not have had this opportunity to enhance our hippotherapy program without her."

Because services will be provided inside the stable, the hippotherapy program will be offered to patients from March through October of each year - about two months longer than services could be provided at the Wellness Center site.

Dreager pointed out that the new location also provides more space for the hippotherapy program, and will allow therapists to use two horses in providing services to two patients at the same time.

"This will enhance our therapy services by providing an opportunity for our patients to form friendships while also learning to take turns," Dreager said.

Another benefit of using the stable for the hippotherapy program is that a treatment room is available on-site, and an air-conditioned viewing room is available for the convenience of parents who watch as their children participate in the hippotherapy program.

In addition, the horses used in the hippotherapy program are kept at the stable and thus do not have to be transported as before.

"We are excited about our new location for hippotherapy, and we believe our patients will reap great benefits as a result," Dreager said.

Maleena Streeval is a writer with the marketing and planning department at McDowell Health.

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