Hippotherapy is a form of physical, occupational or speech therapy in which a licensed therapist uses the characteristic movements of a horse to provide carefully graded sensory input. For clients recovering from injury or who have physical disability, Hippotherapy is an excellent exercise for improving functional mobility. Facilitated by our licensed Occupational Therapist, Ann Viviano, Amanda Saliba, our licensed Physical Therapist John Payne and our Speech Language Pathologists Jenny Guth and Ann Viviano, sessions are conducted mounted or on the ground. Patient and therapist develop goals and treatment plans for functional improvements using the horse as a therapeutic tool and exploiting the horses’ movement to benefit the rider. Goals do not involve horsemanship and are strictly focused on physical improvements in balance, proprioception, range of motion, postural control, muscular strength and endurance, and cardiovascular fitness. Participants are referred through their physicians and therapists.
“Grab the lead, look straight ahead, and walk like you know where you are going.” My instructor stood next to me while I took a deep breath. I walked toward Eve, a beautiful black and white horse. As I held Eve’s lead rope and walked straight ahead, I became very aware, with nervous excitement, of this horse following me with cautious curiosity. The instructor encouraged me, stating that if I knew where I was going, Eve would follow. Conveying confidence allowed me to successfully lead Eve through the pasture.
The field environment combined with direct interaction with horses provides a unique learning opportunity. Based on insights gained from horses about the power of nonverbal communication, the field of equine guided education offers efficient, hands on learning experiences relevant to every profession or role in which people need to gain the trust and respect of those they work with. Horses teach us how to connect, respect, and gain trust through communication.
The facilitators in the Medicine and Horsemanship Program provide first hand experience for students and interns to learn about and understand the power of nonverbal communication – from a 1,000 pound horse – and how to apply that knowledge to leadership as an educator, healthcare professional, director, manager, or parent.
The ETC Youth Leadership Program: Empowerment Through Connection (ETC) is a scholarship foundation providing funding for horse assisted education, hippotherapy and equine facilitative learning in King, Pierce, Snohomish and Thurston Counties.
One program in particular, is the youth leadership program, providing learning opportunities for teens and young adults to build confidence and leadership skills. The program provides service learning and community internships through scholarships that enrich our future change-makers.
Service and charity is fundamental for youth participating in school Honor Society. Members are active in the community on a daily basis. Finding community service locations can be challenging with many nonprofits requiring volunteers to be at least 18 years of age. At ETC, youth are able to make a difference through volunteering and learn leadership skills while participating.
“I think the purpose of developing confidence and leadership skills allows for a window to learning maturity, responsibility, and accountability. It also helps with learning about relationships with others. It is the foundation of being prepared as an individual in the working world.” ~ Audrey, Jackson High School Senior.
Leadership should not be understood as “power over”, but instead as “power with…” Through hands-on activities with a horse, participants experience leadership including awareness of self, being truly present in relationship with others and effective communication.
What makes us effective as leaders is how we respond in the moment. Our activities allow for personal observation and reflection so participants make the connections from the arena to school or home.
Participants leave with a better understanding that leadership is personal power not physical; is about the relationships you develop; is earned through demonstrating authenticity & gaining trust.