Windridge provides Therapeutic/Adaptive Riding as an innovative and highly beneficial form of therapy incorporating education and exercise utilizing the beneficial movement of the horse while teaching mounted equestrian skills. The horse’s movement manipulates a rider’s body to the finest degree as if they are walking.
This movement produces weight bearing through limbs and joints, rotation of the pelvis, sensory stimulation, and strengthening and stretching of muscles. All are vital to a person with a disability as their exposure to physical exercise is limited.
In addition to receiving therapy benefits and improving life skills, participants gain equestrian skills that enable them to learn to ride a horse at all gaits and trail ride. Program participants enjoy learning to care for their horse and interact with peers, volunteers, and instructors as they focus on an activity that is therapeutic and educational, broadening their attention span while promoting cooperation, teamwork, social interaction, fostering self-sufficiency and independence, and developing life skills.
It is quite astonishing that the driving of horses in harness, which is the most ancient of all equestrian sports is one of the newest, fastest-growing horse activities in the equestrian world, both in competition and in the therapeutic horsemanship industry.
Windridge strives to serve children and adults individually. Therapeutic/Adaptive Driving Program is designed for individuals desiring to learn how to drive a horse drawn vehicle, who struggle with obesity or a severe degenerative disability such as multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy.
Participants are taught by a PATH International Certified Driving Instructor and learn to groom and harness their horse as well as care for the horse after class time. The therapeutic benefits received by a participant are significant. For example, the action of the vehicle aids in joint compression and sensory stimulation.
Windridge has four horse drawn vehicles, one being a wheelchair accessible driving vehicle, allowing wheel chair programs participants to receive many of the same benefits as therapeutic riding; such as joint compression, coordination, word association, socialization and the development of new skills.
“Hippo” is the Greek word for horse, so hippotherapy is “therapy with the help of the horse”. The horse’s movement is utilized by physical, occupational and speech therapists as a means to help clients work toward their therapy goals in a fun, active and motivating environment. Windridge and Kidz First Therapy collaborate efforts to provide hippotherapy to children with a wide variety of diagnoses.
Hippotherapy is provided three days a week by Kidz First Therapy and Windridge. The therapists are American Hippotherapy Association Level I and II certified therapists and/or board certified Hippotherapy Clinical Specialists (HPCS). They are supported by Windridge’s PATH International certified instructors and volunteers. The horses are specifically trained and selected for use in this program, as well as for each child.
Unlike in the therapeutic riding program, equestrian skills are not a focus in hippotherapy. It is simply therapy that uses the unique movement of the horse as a treatment strategy. The repetitive three-dimensional movement influences multiple systems throughout the body (neurological, muscular, cardiovascular, sensory, respiratory, emotional, visual, etc.) at the same time, making hippotherapy a powerful and effective strategy.
It has been proven that a horse takes approximately 3,000 steps at the walk in 30 minutes. This means a child can receive 3,000 repetitions of natural therapeutic movement that cannot be duplicated in any other traditional therapy setting. Additionally, positions and activities directed by the therapists help optimize the effects of the movement specifically for each child’s needs.
Our nation’s freedom is preserved at a high cost by the men and women of our armed services and their families. From the beginning, Windridge has offered its programs to service personnel who have acquired a disability while in active duty or later in life.
In 2010 Windridge rallied behind PATH International’s efforts to strengthen our veteran program with the development of Equine Services for Heroes. Veterans participate in Windridge’s: Therapeutic/Adaptive Riding, Therapeutic/Adaptive Driving, and Volunteer Program.
Windridge’s Therapeutic and Equine Mastery Program provides education to volunteers who are gaining skills to begin a career in the field of therapeutic horsemanship. This includes, but is not limited to, teaching curriculum necessary for instructor certifications, personnel advancement, and horse training. Each year, Windridge works with local universities and colleges to provide an in the field experience of equine-assisted activities and therapy (EAAT). Nursing and therapy students shadow Kidz First Therapists as they work with their clients and receive valuable interaction time with both clients and therapists. Windridge also provides the opportunity for individuals interested in EAAT to become an intern at Windridge, where they can receive one-on-one training and first hand experiences in each of Windridge’s programs as well as receive class instruction related to there field of study.
In 2006 Windridge completed development of an educational equine training film available in DVD and web cast format. This film is titled Standard of Behavior for Horse and Horseman – Ground Schooling. This is the first of a three film series designed to enhance the education of therapeutic riding instructors and equine handlers throughout the equine industry. The film is also designed to be utilized in therapeutic instructor training programs and university’s Hippotherapy and equine science programs across the United States. A course syllabus, workbook and tests complete the educational materials offered.
It is a fact that the three-dimensional movement produced by a horse at the walk benefits children and adults with disabilities. It’s also understood this movement cannot be duplicated by a machine nor techniques used in traditional therapies. Nonetheless, the horse’s movement has yet to be authenticated scientifically as a therapy tool.
The purpose for Windridge’s Research Program is to authenticate scientifically the therapeutic benefits the horse’s three dimensional movement provides children and adults with disabilities as well as disabled veterans. In 2009 Windridge built a research room furnished with the necessary equipment to conduct innovative research projects.
Since then Windridge purchased a motion capture system from PhaseSpace to collect data. In November of 2012 Senior Research Engineer, Cameron Nott, PhD, employed with Orbis, Inc., developed the software that will interpret the data collected with the motion capture system.
Dr. Nott wrote the following comments about Windridge’s research efforts.
The Windridge Therapeutic Equestrian Center of East Texas, under direction of Margo Dewkett, has procured hardware and software products essential to establishing a state-of-the art bio-mechanical research facility. Furthermore, the systems have already been used to collect preliminary data to validate, improve, and quantify the benefits of hippotherapy. The system utilizes illuminated markers that are placed on anatomical landmarks of a horse and rider to establish their movement and interaction. The spatial information of these markers is acquired by a computer running software that applies a bio-mechanical model of the riders torso, head, and thighs and also the horses pelvis. Synchronized with the acquisition of this data is information from a pressure switch under the horse’s hoof which provides spatiotemporal data regarding the horses movement.
For preliminary studies, the system has been used to collect data which to quantify the effects three different handling techniques has on the horse’s three-dimensional movement at the walk, used in hippotherapy, and how these methods influence the human body. Handling techniques include leading a horse at the casual walk and working walk as well as long lining the horse at a working walk. These methods will be compared to the horse’s skeletal carriage when walking on an equine treadmill. Variables to be analyzed for the different equine handling techniques will be the effects of the human’s lumber spine range of motion and velocity, head movement and stability, core strength and consequent trunk stability, pelvis motion of the rider, and pelvis motion of the horse. It is expected that the variability of these variables can be influenced according to therapist specifications based on horse handling techniques. Long term goals are to bio-mechanically prove the effects of the therapy that therapists, patients, and families of patients have confirmed subjectively already.