How Can Equine Therapy Benefit My Child with Angelman Syndrome?

How Can Equine Therapy Benefit My Child with Angelman Syndrome?

Angelman syndrome, a rare genetic disorder, is characterized by muscle weakness and physical and mental developmental delays. Many Angelman patients are also known to experience epileptic seizures.

Exercise has been shown to improve strength, coordination, balance, and posture in people with Angelman syndrome. However, physical weakness and problems with coordination can make it difficult for patients to exercise safely. One supervised program that has been useful for some is equine therapy, also known as hippotherapy.

What is equine therapy?

Equine therapy is, essentially, horseback riding under guided and trained supervision. Riding a horse exercises many of the muscles that are also used for walking. People with muscle weakness can ride astride the horse, with one or two assistants on either side to help them balance and ensure they don’t fall off the horse.

One helper guides the horse on a lead, and engages the patient in games that help with balance and focus.

Is equine therapy safe?

All riders wear protective gear such as boots and a helmet. Equine therapy center personnel are trained to recognize seizures, and move patients safely away from the horse if they experience them. The horses are also trained not to panic if a rider becomes ill. However, children with uncontrolled epilepsy should not engage in equine therapy.

How can I find an equine therapy center?

Talk to your physiotherapist — this specialist may be able to recommend a certified center near you. The physiotherapist may also be able to coordinate with the center to establish guidelines and goals for the therapy, as well as track progress and address issues or concerns that might arise.

 

Last updated: Oct. 8, 2019

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