For 28 years, Cyndi Hutson put her training and talents as an occupational therapist to work in traditional clinical settings. Then, fate stepped in. As she was helping a friend overcome anxiety following a severe riding accident, Cyndi discovered hippotherapy – therapy with the help of a horse.
Eight years later, Cyndi now serves as the executive director of Leg Up Therapy, where she treats children and adults with physical, mental and emotional problems, incorporating equine movement into her treatment strategy. Patients with chronic disabilities like autism, cerebral palsy and stroke often “burn out” in traditional therapy settings. Cyndi says that with hippotherapy, clients are more engaged in their treatment, helping them accomplish their goals more quickly.
Then there’s the therapeutic benefits of a horse’s natural gait. The horse moves the rider’s hips and pelvis in the same three planes of motion as when a human walks. This repetitive, rhythmic motion helps organize a disorganized nervous system to improve balance, coordination and core stability. Best of all, it makes therapy a lot more fun.
“It warms my heart to see a wheelchair-bound adult experience the freedom of movement on the back of a horse,” Cyndi explains.
But it’s not just the humans who benefit. Leg Up’s team of equine seem to truly love what they do. As evidence, Cyndi points to one of her “senior” horses, a 27-year-old retired ranch mare: “She waits patiently at the gate anytime a child comes on the property, as if she is saying ‘come take me – I want to help you.’”