Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It took 2 hours to drive in today given that one lane was closed for repairs. But the weather got nice and the kids did well even though I was a bit off kilter. I decided to ignore a little girl with Downs syndrome when she threw a toy and this worked well- she seemed disappointed when I ignored her after she said "I'm sorry". After weeks of being uncooperative about position changes- she not only sat sideways but sang ABC by herself while doing so and did a stringing activity while facing backwards.
Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/L

Monday, March 29, 2010

My toy Corner

Here is an example of my day's toy corner items placed on top of my toy box. The cardboard box has a puzzle attached to the bottom section and the box cover has the puzzle pieces attached with velcro. A client stood on top of the horse today as I held up the box cover for her to pull puzzle pieces off. Next I put the box back down on the withers so that she could squat while placing the shape into the puzzle board.
I positioned a child on the withers facing backwards with the blue hippity hop ball in front of her. She was able to grasp the handle as I pushed the ball toward her trunk. After she relaxed a bit her muscle tone decreased and she was able to abduct to sit on the horse's back. Then I was able to position her legs into long leg and cross leg sit. She is an excellent worker and loves hippotherapy.
Another child stood on top of the horse and pulled all the toys off the red Velcro bottle (shown in the photo) and insert them inside. Then she did around the world while still standing on top of the horse and also maintained good posture while the horse walked (we gave a lot of support at the belt).

Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/L

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Meeting Lady and Dreamer

I spent the morning meeting Maria Hurley's ponies Dreamer and Lady. Maria is a riding instructor who owns We will be starting a hippotherapy program with Judy Lawless-owner of Stoneridge Farm in Haverhill, Mass.
Dreamer and Lady seemed like perfect hippotherapy horses, a good size to make reaching easy, smart, obedient and eager to please.

We introduced a few of my many weird toys. One shown here is a ring stack made out of a tube with a squeaky ball attached. Dreamer didn't mind having either the cloth or plastic rings on his body, having them fall to the ground next to him, nor the squeaky sound. Next week I will be meeting Charmer-Judy's horse at Stoneridge farm.

Stoneridge Farm-
I like the indoor arena and if you squint you might make out the view of the riding trails through that back door.
Please call Maria for information at: (781) 771-1565

Peaceful grazing horses surrounded by riding rings and trails.
If you are interested in hippotherapy in the Haverhill, Massachusetts area-please email me at:

Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/L

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Kids Refusing to do Activities

I have been working with a 4 year old with DX Downs Syndrome for about a year and a half and she has been refusing to do activities that she used to do willingly. For example, she used to like standing on top of the horse while we played games and turn around to face sideways and backwards. Now these activities scare her. Maybe she is just taller and the issue is her center of gravity has changed or she is becoming more aware of what is being expected of her.
In any case, today she cooperated and she did both of these activities without crying.We suspect it is because dad now waits until after the session to eat lunch. Maybe all the carbs made her tired or grouchy. Are others finding a similar situation with kids refusing to do activities that theyused to do willingly? Oh- she talks about riding the horse a lot while at home and even does half seat on her rocking horse- so I think she basically likes hippotherapy.
Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/L

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Weaving Around the Cones Video

This is a nice demonstration of the extra challenge to postural control weaving around the cones provides. I also like doing half-halts, but some horses don't like to move once they stop, so weaving as shown is sometimes the best for postural challenge and also some sensory stimulation for the kids who aren't ready to trot.

Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/

Monday, March 22, 2010

I have used this ring stack in many ways to promote balance, reaching and coordination. The red ball inside a mesh bag attached to the tube with duct tape squeaks helping me to get the child's attention or reward him or her after placement. I attached the orange cone on the bottom. This one is sort of flat on top with an opening large enough for the tube to fit. The cone prevents the rings from falling off. I made the cloth rings by stuffing plastic super market bags inside little girl headbands ( I bought 3 for a dollar). The headbands are tubular and I snipped an opening to insert the bags, then sewed them closed. You can make the same thing with an old sock and sew the ends together. These are great for promoting using both hands to push the ring down since it is pretty hard to do with one hand. I had one girl today stand on top of the horse while using both hands to push the rings down. This was quite impressive because she has increased muscle tone and walks very slowly. Another girl was able to do this while on her belly over the horse's barrel.
Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/L

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I love seeing the emotional bond between children and horses in photos such as this one on the Miracles Sudan blog. Read about the charity Jane-Anne established at Miracles-Sudan and learn about the hippotherapy program.

Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/L

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Pleasant Surprise

I live in an area north of Boston where there are many horse farms. I have begun contacting them to talk about starting a hippotherapy program and have been pleasantly surprised at the interest. One farm is owned by a woman who has a son with disabilities -so she has a special interest. Now the trick is to combine- a suitable horse, warm and friendly farm/owner and staff and a nice riding environment-preferably with an indoor arena and trails. It will be a challenge but well worth the time and effort to operate my own business and work closer to home. It seems that hippotherapy is growing in popularity and more and more horse farms have at least heard about it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Rotation while Reaching behind for toys

This little guy is reaching for the lacing shapes I put on the horse's croup. I think you can see how nicely he is rotating his trunk, strengthening his abdominal muscles and balancing at the same time. He was able to lace on the cord he is grasping in his left hand independently. A mom with a 16 month old with Down's syndrome told me that the physical therapist has noticed improved sitting balance since she started hippotherapy about 8 weeks ago. I love hearing that!

Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/L

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sit-ups while on the horse

I like to ask the children to do sit-ups while the horse is either moving or halted depending on the child's balance and attention. (Some kids attend better when the horse stops). I came across this video showing a little girl doing sit-ups while also working on following directions and learning right and left.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Eyes Closed while Centering Body

I often stop when a child is sliding off the horse and ask him to sit up in the center or middle. If the child's body is starting to hang off the left side (toward me) I might ask the leader to turn the horse in a counterclockwise direction so that the child is made even more aware that the movement is making him fall off and he needs to fix his posture and get centered. I came across this mom's blog at: -showing the therapist hiding Owen's face to make him more aware of where his body is and that he needs to get back onto the center of the horse. (Owen's mom gave permission to use the photo). They love the hippotherapy at:
(Owen's mom-thanks for the photo! My employer does not allow use of client photos, so sad).
Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/L author of, The Recycling Occupational Therapist

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Anothe beautiful day. I recommended that a little boy with cerebral palsy come in 15 minutes earlier so that I can try to get him ranged and relaxed before going on the horse. Hopefully, I will then be able to get his hips abducted to straddle the horse. I am waiting to see if this will be approved.

A little girl with Down syndrome spent the session with no crying today for the first time. I took a picture of her smiling- wish I could share it but am not allowed to show work pictures on line. She also said "oh" during the Old Mcdonald song- a big and nice surprise!

I will be having an activity in the Therapy Share column in the American Hippotherapy Association spring magazine. Yippee! I love being published.

Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/L author of, The Recycling Occupational Therapist

Monday, March 8, 2010

This beautiful March 8 felt like spring and we were out all day. I managed to catch on my tape recorder a little boy filling in animal sounds to Old Mcdonald and played it back for his father. They both got a kick out of that. I carry a small recorder that fits in my pocket and talk about what the kids are doing throughout my sessions. They seem to like hearing me talk about the great work they are doing and then I use it to help me write notes. My brain is fried after 5 hours of walking and talking.
My home is surrounded by horse farms and I would love to find one that has horses that would be good for hippotherapy and see if I can pay a fee for the use of the facility/horses and start a business. The idea is intimidating since I really don't have the horse background. In fact, I have only been doing this for 3 1/2 years. Does any one out there share their experiences doing this?

Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/L author of, The Recycling Occupational Therapist

Monday, March 1, 2010

Don't use Nylons

I finally added an airplane to the puzzle pictures I hang in the indoor arena. Now I can give directions to stop the pony in front of the airplane and hold their arms out like an airplane.
I discovered that nylons are not great for my stretchy rings activity and need to find some tights to use instead. The nylons are ripping. I guess its for the best because I can buy tights of some primary colors and they should be pretty strong. Before the stretchy rings started falling apart today, one little girl (my highest functioning in terms of motor planning and following directions) was able to put the ring over her head, pull it down to her waist, then stand up on top of the horse and step out of the ring and then kick it off the horse.
Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/L author of, The Recycling Occupational Therapist