Post written by: Intern Kailee Sylvester
As a soon-to-be physical therapy student, I have always been interested in hippotherapy, which uses horses as a unique form of physical therapy and rehabilitation. Recently, I got the chance to visit Quantum Leap Farm, a therapeutic riding center in Odessa, FL. Here, people with disabilities, and of all ages, can come and reap the benefits that horseback riding has on the mind and the body. After watching my friend Bryanna, during her therapeutic riding session, I was able to interview the director and founder of the company, Edie Dopking. From her, I learned a bit more about this form of riding, and what it is all about.
Unlike most horse farms, which specialize in pediatrics, Quantum Leap Farm has a wide variety of clientele. For founder and executive director, Edie Dopking, Veterans are among the original population of interest . Because multiple members of Dopking’s family are affiliated with military, this was a huge population of interest. When asked why she started this company, she went on to describe her background in horse riding, and work at similar therapeutic riding companies. When working with other farms, she questioned why the benefits of horse riding were only geared towards children. By starting her own non- profit organization, she decided to branch out to a larger population. In addition to serving a larger variety of demographics, Edie Dopking also went on to explain the larger variety of services and programs, offered at Quantum Leap Farm.
The services offered at Quantum Leap Farm vary, based on your interests and goals. Therapeutic riding focuses on horsemanship, learning riding skills, and disciplines. Hippotherapy is a form of physical, occupational, or speech therapy, that uses the movements of a horse to improve a client’s mobility and functionality. Unlike therapeutic riding, hippotherapy focuses more directly on the physical needs of the client, and is recommended, or referred, by a PT, OT, or speech therapist. In addition to physical, therapeutic benefits, Quantum Leap Farm offers specific services, geared toward mental health. For instance, the program At E.A.S.E stands for: Equine Assisted Self Exploration. From company retreats, to bolstering the recovery of traumatic injury in our veteran population,, to family therapy sessions, these services allow a wide-variety of people to find themselves, while finding a love for horses.
The health benefits of riding also vary based on the service in question. Each session and service is tailored to the needs of a specific client, similar to that of physical and occupational therapy. Among other benefits, therapeutic riding focuses on improving balance, coordination, self-confidence, and stamina . Depending on the specific needs of each client, Hippotherapy can improve muscular strength and endurance, posture, range of motion, proprioception, and much more.
When discussing the medical benefits of therapy, it is nearly impossible to leave out the mental and social benefits that come with it. Therapy is multifaceted, and although health professionals are quick to focus on numbers and physical changes, the mental and social benefits can be just as influential. Those that ride here, don’t simply develop a deep connection with their horse; additionally, they build a meaningful connection with the community of people that come out to ride!
Want to learn more about therapeutic riding and hippotherapy?
Visit Quantum Leap Farm’s website, at: https://www.quantumleapfarm.org/
Learn more about the benefits of riding, here: https://www.quantumleapfarm.org/participate/