More MS news articles for February 2000

Hippotherapy gives kids new hope

Sessions help improve physical, learning abilities

Sunday, January 30, 2000

By Rodger L. Hardy
Deseret News staff writer

LEHI - The rocking sway of a gentle steed brings more than a smile to Emilee Robison's face.

To the tiny 3-year-old, time atop a trained horse brings her closer to being able to walk, talk and play like other children.

So says her family and therapists working with the girl, whose development may have been slowed by Hirschsprung's disease, a bowel disorder that occurs in one of 5,000 children.

When Emilee started horseback therapy - which is called hippotherapy, stemming from the Greek word for "horse" - her motor skills were weak and attention span limited.

"I couldn't even read to her," said her mother, Joanne Robison.

Now, three months after starting therapy sessions on horseback, she can sit and color, just like other kids her age.

"Even her fine motor skills have improved," Joanne Robison said. "It is just amazing."

Hippotherapy is not new - but it is growing in popularity across the country. Just ask Tami Tanner, who operates a therapy program called Courage Reins, just west of Lehi.

Tanner, who is a riding coach and home-health nurse, thought of using hippotherapy two years