When the parents tell me that hippotherapy is the most valuable therapy their child has received, I remember that moment.
The D'Youville hippotherapy program was initiated in 2008. Hippotherapy (using the movement of a horse in therapy) is one of my specialty areas of interest. This is a treatment approach implemented by physical, occupational and speech/language therapists to improve function for individuals with neuromotor impairments. Hippotherapy should not be confused with therapeutic/adapted riding, which are recreational lessons.
Since its establishment, many D'Youville students have volunteered in the program and nearly 40 children have experienced the benefits of therapy. The Introduction to Hippotherapy elective course is always filled and continues to be one of the highlights of my teaching. Physical Therapy students have also completed several research studies involving equine movement and hippotherapy.
The most memorable moments for me in the hippotherapy program came when D'Youville students taking the course get on the horse for the first time and exclaim something to the effect of "Wow! This is really awesome." Or when those who are experienced riders and are now looking at the movement of the horse through clinical eyes say, "I will never underestimate the work being done on the horse."
Of course, the memorable moments with the children in hippotherapy are the laughter and grins because the time on the horse for them is all about fun! When the parents tell me it is the most valuable therapy their child has received, I remember that moment as well.
I chose to enter the field of physical therapy early on. While I was living on Long Island, a family moved next door. The oldest daughter was about five years younger than me, but she needed assistance with daily activities due to the impairments that she experienced with spina bifida (myelomeningocele). I spent many hours with her and her three siblings, witnessing what she went through in therapy. I decided to become a pediatric PT. After nearly 18 years of pediatric clinical practice, I started teaching as an adjunct faculty member at DYC in 1998. I slowly crept up the academic ladder to part-time and then full time faculty by 2003.
As a Board Certified Pediatric Clinical Specialist, I currently teach the pediatric content of the PT curriculum with courses involving normal human development and evaluation and treatment for the pediatric population with disabilities. I served on the American Hippotherapy Association National Board of Directors from 2006-2009 as Chair of the Education and Standards and Practice Committees. I enjoy lecturing and presenting at regional and international conferences.
Sarah P. Pictor, PT, DPT, PCS
Clinical Associate Professor