By Maria Cook
Hippotherapy, the use of horseback riding as a therapeutic treatment, may not be a widely known medical term, but it’s changing lives in Carmel.
Children’s TherAplay at 9919 Towne Road is the largest hippotherapy facility in the nation, according to Executive Director Kathy Pelletier. The organization serves children with special needs, including neurological disorders. Children build core muscle strength and improve fine-motor skills through hippotherapy.
“We’re using the movements of the horse to simulate some of the motor and sensory input that we’re looking to re-create in that child,” Pelletier said. “We call (the horses) our therapists who eat hay.”
Recently, Children’s TherAplay announced plans to renovate and add space. Construction is set to begin May 27. Pelletier said the facility will remain open throughout construction, which is expected to be complete in November.
“It will be 11,000 square feet of new clinic and office space in the new facility. It really allows us to serve our children in a much more customized, individualized way,” Pelletier said. “We have completely outgrown our current facility.”
Pelletier said that the new facility, like the current one, will strive to provide a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere for young patients.
“We serve clients who have spent the better part of their young lives around clinics and doctors and people in scrubs, so we strive to be a different experience,” she said. “With the horses involved, they oftentimes don’t even realize they’re getting therapy. Watching these kids participate in this therapy, it’s so joyful, so happy, and their outcomes are transformational.
“Kids whose parents thought would never walk are taking their first steps, saying their first words, sitting up for the first time.”