Attendance: November 2008 – December 2009
Progress recorded at: October 2009
Attendance: November, 2010 – up to date
Progress recorded at: January 2011
Mother Varduhi: : When Hasmik told me about the horse for my son my first reaction was negative; I was scared that he could not hold on the horse with one hand and one leg damaged. But she explained that hippotherapy is different from horse riding and first times they will insure him. I agreed though could not get rid of fear completely.
My son was diagnosed cerebral palsy when he was just few months old. They said he had to undergo a long rehabilitation but we did not have money for that. So we had to accept the fact that our child was and would be disabled and live with that… But then I noticed changes that horse therapy caused to him. He started using his right hand. It became stronger and stronger. I see his happy face when he manages to do something with that hand. And horse seems to be a miracle we waited for so long…
Hippotherapist’s conclusion:We found Mais occasionally in the village and immediately “dragged” him to the center. He is a very vivid and smart child, never having any complex concerning his disability. He was not using his right hand at all. We put him on the horse without a saddle first, then gradually gave him the reins and then started teaching him trotting in the saddle. When first I pushed him to use his right hand he looked at me and smiled: “I can’t”. His happiness was boundless when he tried and saw that he could! We started cleaning the horse, petting, saddling and bridling her trying to use both hands equally. Then in few sessions we started writing digits and letters with the right, damaged hand. He is getting better and better. He is not only a patient but also is our little assistant!
Problem: CP, weak muscles
Attendance: June 2009 – up to date
Progress recorded at: July 2010
Mother Lilia: My child is 8 years old, she has CP, and her coordination is very disturbed. Constant searches for new rehabilitation methods for my daughter brought me to Centaur hippotherapy center. I was surprised to see two young guys – Borya and Hasmik there who despite all difficulties and obstacles persistently were practicing rehabilitation of the children.
My daughter liked the place at once. She found there that calm and spontaneous atmosphere which our children, especially living in the city need so much. Unlike other places here the child was not just treated but also was in touch with nature and domestic animals such as horses, goats, dogs, cats. I have to add that my daughter overcame her fear to big dogs at this center! During the few months of hippotherapy I could not help wondering how calm and obedient horses were during the sessions. Later Hasmik explained that for such a work horses with calm character are chosen and then trained especially for working with children.
At first stage my daughter learnt to hold on correctly in the saddle. It seems so simple until you climb on the horse yourself. The child learnt to adjust hip movements and at the same time feel the work of the horse’s muscles. At the next stage she learnt exercises on keeping balance and coordination and strengthening the hips’ muscles as well as to go up and down correctly on the pace. Then she learnt managing the horse herself with bridles and legs.
Within several months of work her coordination improved greatly, bearing developed, she learnt to feel her body better. But the most important she is madly happy and looks forward to every next session. To be honest most of the rehabilitation methods for the children with physical difficulties has compulsory nature and cannot give any pleasure to the child. And the pleasure is so important for the child’s full development. That is the main reason why I chose this method: together with the training the child gets great pleasure from intercourse with nature and animals!
Hippotherapist’s conclusion: This little cheerful, curious and assiduous creature goes on making big steps forward. She holds on in the saddle like a true rider. If before she was walking holding by hand now she starts making few steps on her own. We started learning trotting. She has to go up and down keeping the balance with legs and catching with the rhythm and speed, something which is extremely hard for her. After few sessions she managed it! Her happiness and pride of herself was boundless
Mother Anoush: We have been attending hippotherapy sessions for around a year, with little breaks. We alternate hippotherapy sessions with sessions in the Children’s State Rehabilitation Center. The horse’s positive impact on Levon was visible a month after we started sessions. The first and biggest success was we stopped taking medicine for relaxing spastic muscles which Levon was taking for 2 years. Then he started rolling from back to belly (before he could do it only from belly to back). Hands’ spastic muscles got pretty much relaxed; hips’ muscles which were strained like a whip are totally relaxed and hardly touched after getting off the horse. Sitting and standing skills got improved a lot; the child now sits at the table on a backless chair (before the chair not only had to have a back but also an insurer next to him) and stands holding at the table. He lessened crossing legs while walking (held by both hands).
Hippotherapist’s conclusion: The biggest problem of Levon was even not his physical weakness but an absolute absence of stimulus to improve. Now apart from the physical development mentioned by his Mom there are also big changes in Levon’s psychological behavior. He became more confident, many fears disappeared and a stimulus to move forward and be independent appeared. He learnt to keep his back straight on the horse, to hold the rains in the air not touching the saddle (a very hard position for him) and to maintain balance on the horse with his legs only.
Mother Lusine: : I have started taking my son to different specialists since 1.5 years old when I noticed him step by step losing his speech, eye contact and almost any reaction to the outer world. Time was passing but my son’s condition would not get better. In some cases he would behave like a genius – i.e. he adores reading and seems to understand what he reads though has never been taught reading. Or he feels like a cat when someone has health problems or something bad is going to happen. But on the other side he had no social and practical skills: he would not even eat or go to toilet on his own; avoided crowded places, refused traveling in public transport…
Horse seemed to be the last hope for me. First times it was very difficult both for us and for the practitioners. My son was crying non-stop, refusing even to go close to the horse. Then the specialists decided to put and keep him on the horse by force. First three sessions were a nightmare for all of us. I had a feeling that my child would love to come out from his inner world but there was some invisible obstacle between the two worlds that prevented him from doing that…
On the fourth day miracle happened: he climbed on the horse and smiled. In a few sessions he would run to the horse and kiss him before climbing. And one beautiful day he went to the horse, smiled and said very clearly: horse…
On hippotherapist’s advice we also deprived him from his beloved chocolate and wheat flour which have negative impact on the autistic children. Within the several months of our attendance Vahe started sleeping at night, became calmer, started looking at and not through. His peeing at night lessened. If before we could travel only in taxis, now sometimes we manage to travel in public transport.
Hippotherapist’s conclusion:: It took us almost a month to put Vahe on the horse. He was resisting strongly, crying, shouting, and literally beating us. In fact every attempt to “pull him out” from his inner world would come across a severe resistance. We had to put him on horse forcefully and when in several sessions he more or less calmed down we started teaching him giving a sugar to the horse, petting and cleaning him and obeying different commands on the horse using a strict “no” as a punishment and his favorite dried crust as a reward. Very often he would also go out, in fields with Borya, to change the already well-known environment which is very important for an autistic person. He became much more perceptive, calmer, eye-contact appeared, he started reacting on his name, started paying attention to everything around, and pronouncing words in place, like flower when seeing flower, up and down, horse, bye bye…
During the practice we noticed an amazing thing. Communication with horse as if opens that obstacle-door between the inner and outer worlds of an autistic person. So now it is much easier to enter into Vahe’s world and establish contact with him. A psychologist working with Vahe also notices that improvement with him.
Director Haroutyun Balasanyan: There are 280 children in Kharberd State Orphanage for Children with Special Needs. They suffer from organic and functional disorders of central nervous system, CP, inborn and acquired physical defects.
In autumn 2008 15 children attended 3 months hippotherapy course at Centaur hippotherapy center. Horse therapy had great positive impact on all of them. Communication with animals gave children a possibility for self-expression and helped overcome different complexes. Children would enjoy Nature and also discover their own capabilities. The sessions much improved their memory function, balance and coordination and physical condition in general. They still have broad smiles on their faces when looking at their pictures with horses, remember and tell each other about their impressions.
Hippotherapist’s conclusion: TThe children from Kharberd orphanage were our first patients in Ushi. Their physical and psychological benefits from hippotherapy was huge. We did not continue sessions with other children from the orphanage because the orphanage director could no longer afford the transportation of the children to the hippotherapy venue. Recently the director approached us with a request to restart hippotherapy sessions and we are happy to announce that currently we are working on finding funds for the sessions to be restarted.
Mother Marina: : My daughter has cerebral palsy, damaged are her right hand and both legs. At the moment we started attending hippotherapy sessions we were also had been going to the State rehabilitation center for several years. Horse therapy turned to be just a miracle for my daughter. First progress was with her legs in a month when she started walking held by arms. And then progress with her hand came. Once it was raining and the hippotherapist put a helmet on her head. It was a riding helmet for adults so was big for her and she kept adjusting it on the head with one hand. I was looking at her and suddenly I realized that she is adjusting the helmet… with her right hand! I could not believe my eyes! She was raising and putting her hand on the helmet very slowly but she was moving her hand! We interrupted the sessions because no more could afford the transportation to Ushi. But we are looking to restarting it at the first opportunity!
Hippotherapist’s conclusion: Angelina was very scared of horses and dogs. Besides she was quiet capricious. Whenever I would tell her to do some exercise on the horse, she would shake her head and reply very seriously, “No, he (the horse) will eat me.” But in some two weeks we could put her on the horse in different positions without any problem.
She could not walk at all, her both legs and right hand did not work. In a month she started making her first steps held by me. We would walk for a minute after she would get off the horse. In 2 months we extended walking to 3-5 minutes. Her right hand also started working slowly by slowly after we started putting it on the horse and giving reins to the child.
Also very important psychological improvements took place. The child was very attached to her mom and Marina had to walk next to the horse all the way. Besides she would not communicate with the other children attending hippotherapy sessions with her. But gradually she started “forgetting” her mom more and more often and for a long time as well as started getting in touch with other children and adults!