Sue Haward, P.T.

"Hippotherapy: How Does it Help our Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy Clients?"

Written by Sue Haward

I developed a relationship with Windridge Equestrian Therapeutic Riding center back in 1990. Margo Dewkett, a retired jockey, decided she needed a second career. She opened Windridge with 15 acres and a small wooden frame barn. I read about her in the paper and paid her a visit. Since that time we have worked together tirelessly to allow as many clients as possible to experience hippotherapy and therapeutic riding in northeast Texas.

When she told me that a child could receive 3,000 repetitions of natural therapeutic movement that cannot be duplicated in any other traditional therapy setting, I was sold—hook, line and sinker. I knew my clients needed that type of stimulation. So with a lot of guts and minimal knowledge of horses, I joined up with Windridge and the past 22 years have been a blessing to my staff and my clients.

Knowing that research is so important and the horse movement has yet to be validated scientifically as a therapy tool, we established a research center with a treadmill for horses and the equipment to do studies to prove its value. 

Once again, diving off into the unknown, the learning curve has been wide. We are driven by the fact that Medicaid and insurances in Texas and other states will not reimburse for hippotherapy services. Something about not paying for “horses and hay.” We have partnered with LeTourneau University in Longview and Baylor University in Waco and projects are ongoing. 

We recently completed a sensory riding arena with the help of our local Ambuc Club and now offer our clients the experience of touch, feel, noises, textures, hand skills challenges and many more opportunities while riding their horses. The arena was designed by me and my business partner, Celia Bower, P.T.

We have, in the past, had occupational therapists working with us but found ourselves in need of OT opportunities without an OT. So we just built it. Our clients just love it; they squeal and laugh while riding up and down the hill and interacting with the stations that are set up for them and their ride. 

So I will be sharing about my experiences with hippotherapy and the advances we have made in the past years with our clients. This therapy business has such a learning curb and it is what keeps me going year after year.

Our motto at Kidz First Therapy is "every kid gets a ride," either on a horse or an AmTryke. I have been blessed these past 36 years of practicing in an area that is challenging but very rewarding.