The children are willing to challenge themselves in ways that they may not in a home or clinical setting, and they are proud of the progress that they make.”
— Brigid Garry,
physical therapist

Ironstone Therapy at Ironstone Farm provides therapy using the movement of a horse, also known as hippotherapy.

For a person straddling a walking horse, the movement of the horse provides the sensation of walking and moving forward through space, and the rider needs to respond to these movements. This means that a person who cannot walk or who has difficulty walking can experience the sensation of walking and respond to those movements simply by riding a horse.
Ironstone’s therapists use this unique motion to help clients improve balance and coordination, increase muscle tone, and make gains in strength and stamina – all of which are difficult to achieve in the classroom or clinic. For the client therapy is effective and fun.

For more about physical therapy programs, click here.
For more about occupational therapy, click here.

Ironstone Therapy Board

Ironstone Therapy is governed by a Board of Directors that includes:

  • Dr. Peter Raffalli, MD, FAAP, attending physician for child neurology at Children’s Hospital Boston and the instructor of neurology at Harvard Medical School.
  • Chairman Jim Gleason, MS, PT, associate director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, and associate director, UCEDD at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
  • Elaine Francis, Ed. D., board secretary, who was named the first dean of education at Fitchburg State University in 2003 and also served as chairwoman of both the university’s Special Education Department and its moderate and severe disabilities graduate programs.
  • Deedee O’Brien, executive director of Ironstone Farm, who among many other honors was named the 2013 woman of the year by Girls Inc.

Comments from a physical therapist

The benefits easily cross over into improved respiration, communication, visual and auditory attention,
and self-confidence, and sensory integration… to name a few.”
— Kim Murphy, physical therapist

“Hippotherapy is a chosen treatment option by some therapists because of the horse’s unique ability to provide exactly what a child needs in order to achieve functional goals,” says Kim Murphy, a physical therapist at Ironstone Farm.

“The horse can provide warmth and slow, rhythmic movement to help decrease tone and spacticity; or a more variable, and interaction,” she says.concussive sensory input to help increase tone. The horse can by calming and motivational for those with anxiety and positional or sensory insecurities; or stimulating, with tactile and vestibular input for increased alertness, attention,

“Once the proper mental or physical state is maximized, the three dimensional, reciprocal, rhythmic and repetitive movement of the horse allows the child to experience a normalized pelvic mobility mimicking the human gait cycle while moving through space, which improves stability, strength and balance for all children.

“Physical therapy on horse back is mainly focused on addressing gross motor ability, such as sitting, standing and walking. But the benefits easily cross over into improved respiration, communication, visual and auditory attention, self-esteem and self-confidence, and sensory integration… to name a few,” she says. “And not only does hippotherapy provide all of that – but it also allows a child to engage in their most important job: to play and have fun.”

For more comments from medical professionals, click here.

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