I have so much that I want to blog about, but at the moment only major events are spurring me on to actually put my words to print. My last post, as you know was motivated by need to express my sadness for the passing of beautiful Lyla. This post is a happy one..
Let’s talk about Hippotherapy. Nope it is nothing to do with hippos, that was my first thought too. Hippotherapy is form of physiotherapy on a horse.
“Hippotherapy is a form of physiotherapy using the movement of a horse to replicate the sensory and motor output of the human pelvis in walking. It is delivered by a qualified physiotherapist who has undergone additional qualifications and is fully insured to teach this therapy. The therapist will usually work one-to-one with the disabled person or child, using the horse to help them learn to co-ordinate and control their responses. The therapist will also place the disabled person in different positions on the horse to help develop balance and posture. Hippotherapy is different from therapeutic riding. Therapeutic riding is normally run by stables associated with the Riding for the Disabled Association. Conducted in small groups with a riding instructor and physiotherapist, the lesson will again use the horse’s natural movements to stimulate desired responses in the rider’s muscles and posture.”
Back in the Spring of 2012 Isabella’s Physiotherapist asked if we would be interested in Isabella taking part in a four week summer programme, with one riding session per week. We jumped at the chance, as we were and still are keen to try anything that will benefit Isabella and help her reach her potential. I was anxious about it though, as at that point Isabella was very nervous around strangers and easily startled in new and unfamiliar situations. We got to the stable very early and were able to watch two children ride before Isabella. A little girl, not much older than Isabella cried the whole time and was eventually taken off the horse. A little boy followed and smiled the whole time. I had a sneaky suspicion on how Isabella would react.
She was upset from the minute I handed her over to the physio and was very sad the whole way round. Every time she passed me she would look at me with her watery big blue eyes pleading for me to take her off. The physio assured me, although she was unhappy she was sitting very well and gaining a lot from the ride. The more she went round and the more the physio sang to cheer her up, the more Isabella cried. Very soon Isabella was bordering on inconsolable so we made the decision to take her off. She had managed 5 minutes of her half hour session, I hoped she would be better on the following weeks. She was slightly better on the sessions that followed, but still only managed 10 minutes each time before she became very distressed. She showed little enjoyment and seemed as though she had little interest in horses or the riding.
Then last year we were offered another block of 4 riding sessions. We accepted them as, I hoped Isabella would enjoy it more this time. In the last year she had got a lot better with strangers and unfamiliar situations. Her first session went fantastically well, she smiled happily as I handed her to the physio and smiled the whole time she was on the horse. Each time she passed me by she beamed with pride. She did much better and lasted an amazing 20 minutes, before she let us know she wanted to come off.
It was lovely to see how taken she was with the horses and the riding. She sat beautifully on the horse and both Paul and I felt that the sessions had a positive impact on her sitting and posture. I asked the physio if there were more sessions that we could attend. Sadly due to funding and a lack of staff they were only able to offer us sessions in the summer. We left the stables happy, but disheartened that we would have to wait another year to see Isabella ride.
My Mum has ridden horses since she was little and before moving out to Bahrain she owned a horse of her own. I asked her if she could ask around the local stables in Bahrain if they would be happy to have her as a experienced rider, sit on the horse with Isabella, amazingly they said yes. We always look forward to our visits to Bahrain, but now I was extra excited, as Isabella would be able to enjoy something fun and that would be of great benefit to her.
Last Wednesday, after having a couple of days to settle in we went for Isabella’s first riding session. Both my Mum and I were very excited, I certainly couldn’t wait to see Izzy on the horse with my Mum. We showed Isabella the horses, while her own horse, Princess, that she would be riding was being prepared. Isabella even got to wear a hat, it was the smallest size available, it fit her and she even tolerated wearing it.
She happily got on the horse with my Mum and enjoyed every minute of it. I was choked with pride. It was so lovely to see Isabella not only enjoying riding, but enjoying it with my Mum. I know my Mum felt proud and very special, as Isabella can wriggle and can be very unpredictable and I certainly wouldn’t trust her with anyone that I or Isabella didn’t feel confident with.
The riding instructor Karun is lovely. He really made us all feel very special. He didn’t rush the session and went well over the allotted half hour we had paid for. He listened when we told him that Isabella wasn’t good with natural sunlight and made sure he avoided it when he was walking around the arena. He brought Princess to a halt when he could see that Isabella wanted to give her a cuddle and lie on her.
After two sessions of Isabella riding with my Mum, Karun asked if I had an interest in riding. I told him that I had tried it previously and hadn’t really enjoyed it, but seeing how much Isabella enjoyed it and gained from it I would look into taking lessons in the future. I told him that I would love to sit with Isabella and be a part of her riding. He suggested that on our next session, I have a go on sitting on the horse to see if I would be confident enough to ride with Isabella. My stomach churned with excitement and nerves.
So today for the second time in my life I sat on a horse, only this time I actually genuinely enjoyed it. Using the box I climbed on wearing my Mum’s hat and feeling excited and nervous at the same time. As I sat on the horse, I must have shown my nerves, as he told me to relax and we set off towards the arena. We walked around the arena twice, with my hands on my thighs I took a deep breath and relaxed. I felt okay and held my balance. I felt ready to see if Isabella could sit with me. She was passed up to me and was beaming away. She sat beautifully and didn’t once arch her back or wriggle, so we set off walking. I felt confident and proud. I was sitting on a horse with my daughter. I couldn’t believe how well she was sitting. She kept craning her head to look at me, but struggled to with the peak of her hat blocking her view. Finally she managed to look at me and gave me the proudest smile she could muster. I was choked, I looked down at my Mum who was giddy with emotion and pride.
As we sat on the horse we sang songs and Isabella laughed and smiled. Both my Mum and Karun paid me compliments telling me that a non rider holding a child like Isabella was extremely difficult and I was doing very well. The time flew by and before we knew it Isabella had been riding for a full half an hour! Even as she was passed back down to my Mum she was still beaming away happily. Getting on the horse with the box was relatively easy, getting off however was a feat in itself. I slid very unlady like down the horse and landed like a sack of spuds! Well you can’t have everything eh?
As I look back on it now, I still cannot believe I did it and I am really looking forward to Isabella’s next session…