Billabong helps horses and children

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Sandra shows the new halters to assist the helpers when leading the pony.
Sandra shows the new halters to assist the helpers when leading the pony.

What do you think of when you here about hippotherapy? It has nothing to do with those huge animals wallowing in the muddy waters of Africa, but hippos is the Greek word for horse.

Horses have been used therapeutically since 400BC or so I have been told. The idea was slow to catch on for it was not until the 1960s that physical therapists in Europe began using horses to help patients with physical disabilities or brain injury.

Sandra Cooper is a qualified hippo therapist and has been running Able the Disabled from the Horseshoe Point for close on 10 years.

A horse walks with a similar gait to that of a human, rhythmic and repetitive. A disabled child can sit on a horse and experience what normal feels like. As you can imagine, a small child standing next to a pony which towers above him/her for the first time may well be a frightening experience. But once they can be encouraged to overcome their fear and go for it they enjoy every moment.

Great strides have been made by Sandra with the children that attend her centre building muscle strength, improving posture/balance and gaining self-confidence.

So why have we helped the horses? Horses suffer from discomfort as do humans being pestered by flies and other insects that bite and cause infection. The Billabong have previously supplied blankets to help overcome this problem but horses also have irritations with the saddle rubbing against their backs, so today we donated funds to provide new blankets with padding where needed and modern halters to give comfort around the head and to assist the helpers when leading the ponies in this case.

There are many hands to help the child to sit on the pony, this one with a new blanket.
There are many hands to help the child to sit on the pony, this one with a new blanket.

The ponies are gentle and docile but the one thing to avoid at all times is for the horse to be agitated from bites and sores which will scare a child by fidgeting and causing stress. The children’s confidence and safety are Sandra’s prime concern. The children are also encouraged to speak, simple words or letters to overcome their shyness and just another opportunity to gain confidence. Sandra and her helpers take great pride in their achievements and a pleasant hour or so was spent watching the children having fun with the aim of improving their mobility.