Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is farm-based therapy?
A: Here at Catalyst Farm, we have an array of farm experiences for your child to participate in while working towards therapy goals. While everyone's first thought goes to horses, we want you to know that what we do here is so much more than just horses. From the fluffy fleece of the sheep to the prickly feathers of the chickens, our animals each provide a unique experience to the sessions. Besides the endless fun of working with animals, we also offer opportunities for gardening and farm chores in sessions. You'd be surprised how much fun mucking stalls can be—and how many therapy goals you can work towards while doing it!
Q: Will my child be riding horses? Can I request my child be on horseback for every session?
A: Hippotherapy is an option, but certainly not the only option. Many of the "fan favorite" sessions don't include horses at all! Having said that, we use a teach approach for your child's therapy and you, as the parents, are an important part of that team. We discuss treatment strategies with you after we complete the initial evaluation. A plan will be made from there. You and your therapist may choose to use hippotherapy as a strategy in your child's plan of care. If so, your child will have sessions that involve being mounted on a horse while completing their therapy session. It's like working with a big, live therapy ball! If hippotherapy is utilized as part of your child's treatment strategy, there may be times your therapist finds it necessary to have sessions off horseback as a way to transfer newly learned skills to your child's daily life. There may also be times that your therapist does not feel hippotherapy will be beneficial for the session. For example, a negative physical response to certain weather conditions in the child, such as increased tone in cold weather, could make hippotherapy counterproductive. Don't worry; there is plenty of fun to be had on the farm in every session.
Please note: We do not teach horsemanship skills during a hippotherapy session. It is not a riding lesson, and saddle and reins are not typically used.
Q: What is hippotherapy? What's the difference between hippotherapy and therapeutic horseback riding?
A: Many children ask, "Will I be playing with a real hippo?" Sadly, no...hippotherapy does not have anything to do with hippos. "Hippo" is the Greek word for horse, and "hippotherapy" is the use of a horse's movement as part of a treatment strategy in an occupational, physical, or speech therapy session. Unlike therapeutic riding, hippotherapy never teaches horsemanship skills. It is not a horseback riding lesson, but rather the use of the horse's movement—and the resulting effect on the child's body—to enhance the therapist's session. A hippotherapy session must be run by an OT, PT, or SLP, whereas a qualified horse trainer runs a therapeutic riding session.
For further understanding of how hippotherapy works, please see the information provided below from the American Hippotherapy Association (AHA).
"The term hippotherapy refers to how occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech-language pathology professionals use evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning in the purposeful manipulation of equine movement to engage sensory, neuromotor, and cognitive systems to achieve functional outcomes. In conjunction with the affordances of the equine environment and other treatment strategies, hippotherapy is part of a patient's integrated plan of care."
"The three-dimensional movement of the horse's pelvis is within 1-2 cm of the movement of the human pelvis at the walk. This three-dimensional movement has been shown to affect the Central Nervous System which in turn stimulates the Motor Pathways and the Vestibular System in the Human Brain. This movement naturally affects all the systems in the human body."
"The horse's movement has rhythmicity and symmetry, providing a dynamic base of support and multiple planes of movement. It provides multi-sensory input, proprioception, movement through space, repetition, and variability. All of this is provided within a natural environment with the therapist able to modify both the movement of the horse and the environment. This encourages the patient to shift from his or her current preferred pattern of behavior in order to achieve new functional outcomes/behaviors. Patients explore, self-organize, make postural adjustments, and problem solve in a highly motivating and natural environment. The resultant development is an adapted response and the ability to use new movement strategies and incorporate them safely and appropriately into their normal environment."