Easter Seals Disability Services

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Riding toward happiness, confidence and strength...

Hippotherapy Client Story 

For many people, getting on a horse brings a kind of freedom and independence that is hard to describe and even harder to find in life. And truer words could not be used to explain the amazing transformation that has occurred in 29-year-old Kirsten Cicchetto since she began hippotherapy with Easter Seals at Halona Stables more than a year and a half ago.

Kirsten and her mom Kim came to Easter Seals looking for a way to work with horses to help tackle her developmental disabilities and bi-polar disorder. Hippotherapy, which is a treatment strategy that improves the quality of life for individuals with disabilities, seemed like a good fit for Kirsten who has always loved horses and would benefit greatly from the kind of successes this type of therapy provides.

“My goal was for her to first focus on being happy, confident and to have fun. I needed her to build a sense of trust with the horse,” said Easter Seals Therapist Patti Rawding-Anderson. After that, Patti focused on Kirsten’s core strength, posture, muscle tone, balance, coordination, and developing a sense of responsibility.

When Kirsten first got on a horse, she admits she was scared about all of the new things she had to learn. She climbed up onto one of the more tame horses using a four stair step. She rode hunched over and tentative with assistance from three adults around her. “I was unsure of how far she would progress toward riding independently,” says Patti. So, she challenged Kirsten to see how far she was willing to go. It turns out she was up for the challenge.

Little by little Kirsten learned to care for the horses which, plays a huge role in her progress. She grooms them, saddles them, trusts them, has learned the vocabulary of the stable and horses, has built a relationship with the horses and has improved her own self-confidence and ability to trust herself. Over the course of the past year, Kirsten has become completely independent in her riding, increased her self-esteem, has lost weight and has found a way to stabilize her moods. She laughs and smiles a lot more and has really built up her core strength. She exudes confidence and happiness when she is riding her favorite horse Phoebe. And that confidence has flowed into other parts of her life, including her ability to be an advocate for herself.

“Horses have become a way of life for Kirsten,” says Kim. “Each week Kirsten and I share an experience and a memory in an enjoyable and stress free environment.  Among many things, Hippotherapy has improved Kirsten’s sense of well-being.  She is a more confident person than she was before she started riding. Patti encourages her and challenges her and that has proven to be a winning combination.  I am thankful to all at Halona Stables that are connected with this Easter Seals Program and am very proud of my daughter‘s progress.”

Kim adds that the peaceful and serene setting at Halona Stables has been very good for Kirsten. In addition to riding one day a week, Kirsten has a part time job, knits hats, makes get well cards for children at local hospitals, works out at the gym, bowls with her Dad, takes Zumba and music classes and enjoys hanging out with her longtime boyfriend. Hippotherapy has been exactly what Kirsten needed and Patti believes the team approach has added to the success.

“Kim is an amazing advocate for her daughter but also she put a tremendous amount of trust in Easter Seals.  Kirsten was very shy, spoke very little, did not smile a whole lot and needed a tremendous amount of assistance to ride the horse,” says Patti. “Yet over time, we learned that this family would do ‘Whatever it Takes’ to make sure Kirsten is successful.”

As for Kirsten’s future equestrian plans, she intends to keep on riding because there are always new goals to accomplish. “The thing I Iike about horses is that they are kind animals,” says Kirsten. “This is really the best thing I could do. I enjoy it and have lots of fun.”

For more information about Hippotherapy contact us.



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