Helping Equine-Assisted Service Centers Offer Patient Access & Safety

One of the many things we love about the work we do, and the products and services we offer, is how they allow us to have a direct impact on the life quality of individuals living with disability or aging in place. We’ve been blessed over the years to provide Body Supports, patient lifts and other durable medical equipment to a large variety of outstanding organizations offering equine-assisted services, i.e., services that provide for healing interactions between humans and horses.

You may have heard the term “hippotherapy.” Hippotherapy is just one slice of the bigger equine-assisted therapy pie. In the case of hippotherapy, which is therapy overseen by occupational or physical therapists, program participants are mounted on the back of a horse and benefit from the physical movement of the horse – movement that supports participant goal achievement like improved balance, stability, and movement. As we explained in our “Healing With Horses Through The Use Of Hippotherapy Equipment” blog post, the use of horses as a means to achieve physical therapy and occupational therapy goals, or simply improved-mental-health or physical-health goals, can mean the difference between goal achievement and failure.

For patients with limited mobility, traditional occupational and physical therapy sessions can feel overwhelming and lead to non-compliance by the patient. The same applies to emotional/mental health challenges and traditional counseling/therapy sessions. Because it provides for both a fun and bonding-with-an-animal experience, equine-assisted therapy can lead to a higher degree of improved mobility and/or mental health, simply due to a greater commitment by the participant/patient to their therapy. This is particularly the case when patient transfer systems, like the ones we provide and install at equine-assisted treatment sites, make it far more comfortable, smoother, and easier for the patient to get situated on the horse or in a carriage, or for them to touch a horse. Plus, our patient lifts and other durable medical equipment provide for a safer transfer experience – for both the rider and the staff.

Patient Transfer System Installations At MA and CT Equine-Assisted Service Centers

Whether an equine-assisted service center needs a ceiling mounted track for safe, easy transfers, such as our Surehands® Body Support System, a sling, or other durable medical equipment, such as a modular ramp, to ensure patients are able to gain access to horses comfortably, conveniently, or safely, the team at Lift & Care can work with you to meet your needs and help you decide which patient transfer equipment makes the most sense for your organization and the individuals you serve.

One of the reasons our patented Surehands Body Support is ideal for use at a equine-assisted service center, and optimizes a therapy participant's experience, is because when individuals are situated in it, they can easily sit atop a horse. This is due to the fact that the Body Support causes their legs to be spread out and there's nothing under their buttocks. The Body Support slowly closes in and around the individual as the lifting starts. The Body Support closes in on them firmly around their sides (thorax), according to their own body weight and innate tone. At Lift & Care Systems, we like to think of our Body Support as two sets of strong hands -- one set holding a person around their upper body, another set holding patient's legs (lower body) up under their thighs.

The Body Support holds the participant in an upright sitting position, allowing them to be lowered directly onto a horse's saddle. Because our Surehands motor and track system used along with our Body Support is quiet, it neither startles the horse, or the individual benefitting from equine-assisted therapy.

We are fortunate to have so many exceptional equine-assisted service centers in New England – committed to improving the balance, core strength, and mobility of those living with disability, particularly children. And, it’s wonderful that so many centers also help our U.S. Veteran’s or others who are struggling emotionally due to past trauma.

We recently installed patient transfer equipment at two such equine-assisted treatment centers, and in keeping with our post’s opening statement, we were honored to be asked to do so. While we are highlighting those two centers here because they are the ones we’ve worked with most recently, we also share at the end of this post, the names of other incredible organizations we’ve had the pleasure to work with to meet their equine-assistance-related participant-/patient-transfer needs.

High Hopes Therapeutic Riding Inc., Old Lyme, CT

Located on Connecticut’s southern coast (and Lower CT River Valley) in Old Lyme, High Hopes Therapeutic Riding Inc. (High Hopes)’s simple, but beautiful mission is to “foster a community where horse and human interactions improve lives.” High Hopes has been living this mission since 1974 when their organization – then known as the Lower Connecticut Valley Educational Riding Association (LCVERA) – began offering therapeutic riding lessons to eight, local elementary students with a few volunteers and borrowed horses. We’ve had the great fortune to work with this organization for more than two decades.

As you’ll see from these 2021 - 2022 metrics reported by High Hopes, the Center has grown significantly as far as the number of lives impacted – volunteers, instructors, and patients all benefit!

  • 6,524 services provided to 1,109 participants

  • 14 instructors

  • 22 horses

  • 412 volunteers

High Hopes offers both “mounted” and “unmounted” equine programs to both adults and children living with physical disabilities and/or emotional/mental health disabilities (such as those which developed from past trauma). Programs include:

  • Equine Assisted Services (therapeutic carriage driving, unmounted equine learning programs, and resilience reins)

  • Equine Experiences (One-time experiences vs. a multi-session or ongoing program)

  • Programs For Veterans

  • Summer Camps

Learn more about the exceptional services and hope provided to High Hopes Therapeutic Riding program participants.

As shown in images below, Lift & Care installed a ceiling mounted SureHands ceiling track lift and motor system (as part of an overall patient transfer system) on the ceiling of High Hopes’ riding arena to provide safe, comfortable, easy access to participants participating in mounted rider programs. As part of the overall patient transfer system, we provided a Surehands Body Support to be used in conjunction with the ceiling lift system.

 

Misty Meadows Equine Learning Center, Vineyard Haven, Martha’s Vineyard, MA

Located on scenic Martha’s Vineyard (an island off of Massachusetts’ Cape Cod) in West Tisbury, Misty Meadows Equine Learning Center (Misty Meadows) works hard each and every day to achieve its very admirable mission to provide “a nurturing environment where horses and humans work together to transform lives.” While always striving to expand their impact, Misty Meadows has been working and succeeding at this mission since 2016 when the Misty Meadows farm and riding center – one with a long, rich history – was generously donated by the Kenney Family to the nonprofit organization that currently operates Misty Meadows Equine Learning Center. 

As you’ll see from these 2022 results from Misty Meadows, the Center has grown significantly as far as the number of lives impacted, including those of volunteers and instructors!

  • 3,890 individuals positively impacted

  • 730 individuals enrolled in direct service programs

  • 120 active volunteers

  • 150 Hours MA riding instructor licensing

  • 1,315 classes (individual lesson, group classes, and one-time experiences)

Misty Meadows offers both “mounted” and “unmounted” equine-assisted programs to both adults and children living with physical disabilities and/or mental health/emotional disabilities (such as ones which developed from past trauma). Therapeutic Horsemanship Programs include:

  • Therapeutic Riding

    • While not considered “true” occupational or physical therapy, i.e., hippotherapy, this program supports individuals with mental health, physical, and developmental disabilities gain greater independence thru the experience of learning to ride a horse

  • Equine Assisted Learning

  • Unmounted Horsemanship

Liz Adams, Development and Program Manager, at Misty Meadows shared the following about her experience working with us.

“Lift & Care Systems, and their owner/founder, Dave Austin, provided great follow-up, excellent attention to detail, and took the time to understand our specific needs and to recommend the product that would work for us, based on that understanding. The ramp that Lift & Care Systems installed at our facility will increase access to horses for all people living on, or visiting, Martha’s Vineyard, and increase safety for students, staff, and volunteers.”

As shown in images below, Lift & Care installed a wheelchair ramp to provide access to a ceiling mounted SureHands ceiling track lift and motor system (as part of an overall patient transfer system) on the ceiling of Misty Meadows barn to provide safe, comfortable, easy access to participants participating in mounted rider programs. The ramp allows for an individual living with disability to go from wheelchair to the back of a horse. As part of the overall patient transfer system, we provided a Body Support, and also provided some custom welding work (so that our system could hang off an I-beam). The Lift & Care Systems team also met with the team at Misty Meadows to train them on how to use their new equine-assistance-service equipment properly and safely.