By Tiffany Blackmon - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) –Therapy patients, like Markcus Palin, with physical, cognitive, or mental disabilities can receive treatment with the help of hippotherapy.

Palin is autistic and has several learning and physical disabilities, but through hippotherapy, a treatment that uses a horse as a tool, he is leaping over those obstacles.

Sue Nixon, Palin's grandmother stated, "He's improved completely. He can write, read. Without this, I don't think he would have been able to do any of it."

Palin has been a part of West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital's (WCCH) Hippotherapy Program for the past three and a half years. He has reaped the benefits of occupational, speech, and physical therapy while riding because his focus is on the horse.

Stephanie Darbonne, senior therapist with WCCH stated, "The horse presents the opportunity for our patients to be in a natural environment experiencing therapy where they're not paying attention to some of the things we do as therapist to the patient."

"You can ride backwards, you can turnaround," said Palin.

Darbonne says balance is the foundation for the sensory nervous system. In hippotherapy she says to think of the horse and rider as a mimic of the human brain.

"If the horse is running ramped, the rider is not going to be able to do their job, but if we calm the horse down, which would be the lower automatic nervous system for the patient, then he can use the thinking parts of his brain," said Darbonne.

Hippotherapy can help patients with a wide range of conditions, and when the body can function properly, it's easy to build confidence.

Darbonne stated, "Take this large animal and put him next to it and tell him, I want you to walk this horse in, and suddenly you have this kid who goes, what a minute you trust me to do that?"

Before hippotherapy Palin was like other patients who lacked confidence. He was also once afraid of horses, but he's not anymore.

"Because, because I'm changing," said Palin.

WCCH is the only hospital based Hippotherapy Program in the United States. They are offering a camp this summer at the Genesis Therapeutic Riding Center. For more information you can click here, or call the therapy department at (337) 527-4357.

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