Pioneering partnership between NHS Lothian and Muirfield Riding Therapy celebrates a decade of work together

NHS Lothian are celebrating 10 years of partnership with a horse stable which provides life-changing therapeutic riding to children with disabilities.

By Shona Elliott
Saturday, 28th November 2020, 7:00 am
Charlie Kay on Oreo with Mum Melanie Kay and physiotherapist  Heather Falconer
Charlie Kay on Oreo with Mum Melanie Kay and physiotherapist Heather Falconer

Muirfield Riding Therapy allows young people with various additional needs in Lothian to experience the benefits of horse riding for free.

For over a decade the partnership has been offering Hippotherepy a specialist form of physiotherapy, on horseback.

NHS Lothian children’s physiotherapist Heather Falconer, who pioneered the service with MRT’s Service Coordinator Susan Law, has described what this unusual branch of therapy is.

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Ms Falconer said: “Hippotherapy uses the movement, warmth and rhythm of the horse as a therapy tool. As a horse walks, every step challenges its rider’s balance. This activates and strengthens the muscles of the trunk and pelvis. A 3-dimensional movement is transferred to the rider’s pelvis which mirrors the movement of a normal rhythmic human walking pattern, and gives experience of a normal walking pattern. The warmth of the horse and a gentle rolling gait can relax tight muscles, while a more choppy movement can increase low muscle tone.”

Alongside Muirfield’s friendly horses, riders have the opportunity to ride on Oreo, a specialist mechanical horse.

This horse-shaped, high tech piece of physiotherapy equipment responds to leg and hand movements just like a real horse.

Oreo is linked to a screen in front of him which allows his riders to choose from an array of scenic rides such as the beach or fields which they can virtually follow.

Schoolboy Charlie Kay has been using the service for 10 years. Now 13 Charlie's mum Melanie Kay said horse riding has helped her sons mobility.

She said: “The best part about the riding service is that Charlie sees it as more of a hobby than a therapy session. He has seen a real knock-on effect in mobility and his walking is so much better. As the riding engages his core he is sitting up better and straighter. Not only is it great for his physical health, but Charlie also enjoys the social aspect of speaking to all the volunteers and staff.”

For more information on Muirfield Riding Therapy click HERE.

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