Hippotherapy Works – for multiple groups

Today’s guest blogger is Connie Almony. She was trained as aAlmony - headshot1 mental health therapist and likes to mix a little fun with the serious stuff of life. She was a 2012 semi-finalist in the Genesis Contest for Women’s Fiction and was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Winter 2012 WOW Flash Fiction Contest. Connie will give a copy of her latest book to one person who leaves a comment, even if brief. Here’s her very interesting post.

My sister is one of those crazy horse people. You know, kind of like Liz Taylor in National Velvet. She’s not a champion rider or anything like that, but she loves the animals and thinks they hold the key to healing many ills. In fact, she was the one who first told me about the various forms of therapies now being done using horses.

I was first inalomy-pictroduced to this idea as a form of therapy for my son who has autism. Therapeutic riding (or hippotherapy) was recommended in order to help him with issues such as balance, fine motor skills, visual motor skills, bilateral control and cognition. Therapists incorporate the rhythmic motion of the horse to help stimulate more adequate sensory processing of the world around him.  It also has the added benefit of providing an opportunity for a relationship with an animal (sometimes less threatening than humans) and gave him self-confidence as he attained various riding goals. There was nothing like the sight of my son on a horse—regal! He looked like a king on his steed.

Since this time, my sister told me of other ways horses are used for healing. She’s even been trained in something called “equine-assisted psychotherapy.” I know—a mouthful! In this therapy, the horse is used, not to ride (necessarily), but as a diagnostic tool. Psychotherapists can actually assess relationships within a family, or group, by how the horse responds to them. Amazing!

So, it’s no wonder that when I considered incorporating therapies to hAlmony - Dark Forest--Final Coverelp a veteran amputee for my novella, At the Edge of a Dark Forest, horses came to mind. And I’m so glad they did, because not only can horses be used to help an amputee improve his gait with new, prosthetic limbs (as is necessary for the main character of my story), the relationship with a horse can improve his psyche.

Many veterans come home from war scarred with the effects of PTSD. They have seen the loss of human life on a scale the average person has not. Because of this, many will withdraw socially and engage in thoughts of suicide. A bond with a horse can be the bridge the veteran is not yet willing to take with another human being.

Therapists choose horses whose temperament will be a good fit for the veteran’s needs. They will spend time together in grooming, saddling and riding, giving the veteran a sense of relationship, responsibility and leisure activity, while providing therapy outside the sterile environment of a VA hospital. The rocking movement can even stimulate chemical reactions in the brain which provide a sense of well-being, much like rocking a baby.

For the amputee, riding a horse can strengthen muscles in the hips, trunk and abs, which will help them stabilize while learning to walk with prosthetics. The horse acts as an extension of their lower bodies.

I will give a Smashwords coupon for the e-book version to a person selected at random from those who leave a comment, even a brief comment.

My sister could tell you oh-so-much more about these miraculous creations of God, but I’ll spare you the details today. However, if you are interested to learn more about hippotherapy for veterans, click on the following links:

An article about the use of horses with veterans

Here’s a brief blurb on At the Edge of a Dark Forest

Cole Harrison, a war veteran, wears his disfigurement like a barrier to those who might love him, shielding them from the ugliness inside. He agrees to try and potentially invest in, a prototype prosthetic with the goal of saving a hopeless man’s dreams.

Carly Rose contracts to live with Cole and train him to use his new limbs, only to discover the darkness that wars against the man he could become.

At the Edge of a Dark Forest is a modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Only it is not her love that will make him whole.


19 thoughts on “Hippotherapy Works – for multiple groups

  1. Jim, thank you for introducing Connie. I enjoyed the blog, plus I learn new information. I appreciate those who step out of their comfort zones and introduce characters who are not the conventional what’s considered gorgeous to the real world. I applaud you Connie, your sister and Cole.I look forward to reading At the Edge of a Dark Forest. augie

    • Augie,

      I must admit, I shy away from the word “gorgeous” in my fiction. I do have an exotically beautiful woman in one of my stories, but that is actually her challenge–being taken seriously. Yes, I want my characters to be attractive to each other, but I often make it the funny smile or tilt of the brow, or endearing mannerism that tugs at the heart. It’s about becoming attracted through the whole of the person and not the general standard definition of beauty. But that’s just me :o)!!! Thanks for noticing.

  2. As an animal lover and a psychologist, I believe in the power of animals to heal. Just touching them is therapeutic. I don’t know how I could live a happy life without having animals part of it. Your book sounds wonderful.

    • My sister, the crazy-horse-person, also works with veterans. She’s the one who inspired this story reminding me of the many ways our veterans have sacrificed for us. She’s been hoping to work with horse farms in her area as well, but so far hasn’t been able to pull the two together. We have a couple places in our area that do that sort of work.

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