Helping Kids Through Horsepower

This not-for-profit in Carmel offers physical, occupational and speech therapy on horseback.

Children’s TherAplay in Carmel is an organization that offers therapy for kids with disabilities — with horsepower. And by horsepower, that is exactly what they mean. The not-for-profit pediatric outpatient clinic offers hippotherapy, a form of therapy that uses horses as a tool for treatment.

Indy’s Child spoke to Emily Sigler, communications manager at Children’s TherAplay, to learn how this unique form of therapy is helping some children with disabilities develop life skills and achieve their goals.

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Tell us about Children’s TherAplay.

Children’s TherAplay is a pediatric outpatient clinic where licensed therapists provide children with disabilities physical, occupational and speech therapy, which uses the movement of a horse as a tool to accelerate physical, emotional and behavioral development, in a safe and caring environment.

For over 20 years, TherAplay has been treating kids 18 months to 13 years with a variety of diagnosis and developmental delays, and we have grown to become the largest facility specializing in hippotherapy in the country. Diagnoses can include Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, developmental delays and others.

The horse can provide a therapeutic input that cannot be replicated in any other type of therapy. These inputs have allowed our clients to see transformational outcomes, such as children with mobility limitations taking first steps, non-verbal children saying their first words, children learning to feed themselves independently, and dress and care for themselves more independently. The list goes on!

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How do families get started with this form of therapy?

Families interested in services for their child first need a prescription from their child’s physician. Once a prescription is secured, parents or caregivers can visit our website to fill out a new patient form, which will lead to scheduling an initial evaluation with a physical, occupational, or speech therapist. In the evaluation, the therapist and caregiver work together to determine if TherAplay is a fit for the child, and if so, create goals aligned with the caregiver and physician’s recommendations. We currently have a waitlist for occupational therapy and speech therapy services, and are accepting new patients for physical therapy. If the family joins the waitlist, our patient advocate will stay in contact and reach out when a spot becomes available.

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Do you accept insurance?

Yes! We accept all major medical insurance, including Indiana Medicaid. We also have scholarship and financial aid opportunities for families facing burdensome copays or deductibles.

What else should families know about hippotherapy and Children’s TherAplay?

Hippotherapy allows parents an effective alternative or supplement to medicinal therapy for developmental, behavioral and emotional delays in children. The horse can provide a therapeutic input that cannot be replicated in any other type of therapy. We also provide a child-focused, sensory-rich clinic with state-of-the-art equipment and technology to help children hit their therapy goals.

Play is the work of a child. The combination of hippotherapy and our sensory-rich clinical therapy allows our pediatric clients to work hard while they play. Children with disabilities often spend countless hours in and out of doctor’s offices. Coming to Children’s TherAplay feels like fun because of our relaxed barn feel and sensory-rich facility.

At Children’s TherAplay, kiddos have experienced many “firsts”: first steps, first words, first time tying shoes, first time buttoning a coat, and so much more. These “firsts” give our clients and their families confidence and hope for an independent future.

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