Title

The Shredding and Reconstituting of Complex Healing Occupations Involving Horses

1

Location

Studio 1

Start Time

21-10-2017 9:30 AM

End Time

21-10-2017 11:00 AM

Session Type

Theoretical Paper

Abstract

Intent: To explore historical and sociocultural factors underlying the mid-twentieth century shredding and contemporary reconstituting of complex, healing occupations involving horses, as suggested by the example of hippotherapy, one type of equine-assisted therapy.

Argument: In 1949, Liz Hartel was paralyzed by polio. In 1957, nine years later, she won a silver medal in the Grand Prix Dressage at the Helsinki Olympics. While needing help mounting and dismounting, Hartel’s disability vanished once she began riding and she and her horse transformed into a world class athletic partnership. Their remarkable Olympic success is credited with promoting the healing power of horses worldwide, particularly hippotherapy for people with physical disabilities (Berg, 2014).

Though inspired by Hartel, mid-twentieth century proponents of hippotherapy ‘saw’ her success in dressage, an exceedingly complex occupation, through reductionist lenses. A discourse and practice of hippotherapy arose that reduced healing occupations involving horses into no more than therapists’ manipulation of equine movement to remediate motor impairments. Early hippotherapy in Europe and the United States was not occupational in nature; rather, it was popularly delivered and portrayed as a treatment strategy in which the horse was a tool and the patient passively received sensorimotor stimulation controlled by the therapist. Our systematic mapping review of 35 years of literature on hippotherapy (under development) found, however, that occupational therapists objected to this depiction (e.g., Engel, 1984) on largely occupational grounds, and are now reframing hippotherapy from an occupational perspective (Ajzenman, Standeven, & Shurtleff, 2013). In response to occupational therapists, the American Hippotherapy Association (2017) also recently broadened hippotherapy’s definition to encompass therapeutic environmental affordances. Moreover, the term, hippotherapy, is now being abandoned in lieu of equine-assisted occupational therapy, which better captures the complexity of occupations involving horses (Llambias, Magill-Evans, Smith, & Warren, 2016).

In this theoretical paper, we aim to explore historical and socio-cultural factors implicated in the shredding of complex, healing occupations involving horses and the contemporary reconstituting of the richness of such occupations.

Importance to Occupational Science: Our exploration of hippotherapy offers insights into how discourses and dominant practices can render the healing potential of complex occupations invisible, and contemporary factors conducive to a reclaiming of complex occupations pertaining to changing conceptions of disability, health, nature, and the role of animals in society.

Conclusion: Occupations involving horses and other animals may offer antidotes to contemporary ways of living that are devoid of direct experiences with the natural world.

Key words: Hippotherapy, nature-based occupation, horses as healers

Questions to facilitate discussion:

  1. In what ways, if any, does the example of hippotherapy help to illustrate how other complex, healing occupations have been rendered invisible culturally?

  2. In what ways, if any, does the example of hippotherapy help to illustrate how other previously shredded occupations are re-emerging with their occupational complexity more intact and valued?

  3. How can the holistic transactional nature of nature-based occupations best be studied and described?

References

Ajzenman, H. F., Standeven, J. W., & Shurtleff, T. L. (2013). Effect of Hippotherapy on Motor Control, Adaptive Behaviors, and Participation in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Pilot Study. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 67, 653-663. doi: 10.5014/ajot.2013.008383

American Hippotherapy Association. (2017). What is Hippotherapy? The American Hippotherapy Association, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.americanhippotherapyassociation.com/

Berg, E. L. (2014). The life-changing power of the horse: Equine-assisted activities and therapies in the US. Animal frontiers, 4(3), 72.

Engel, B. T. (1984). The horse as a modality for occupational therapy. Occupational Therapy in Health Care, 1(1), 41-47.

Llambias, C., Magill-Evans, J., Smith, V., & Warren, S. (2016). Equine-assisted occupational therapy: Increasing engagement for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 70(6), 177-185. doi: doi:10.5014/ajot.2016.020701

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Oct 21st, 9:30 AM Oct 21st, 11:00 AM

The Shredding and Reconstituting of Complex Healing Occupations Involving Horses

Studio 1

Intent: To explore historical and sociocultural factors underlying the mid-twentieth century shredding and contemporary reconstituting of complex, healing occupations involving horses, as suggested by the example of hippotherapy, one type of equine-assisted therapy.

Argument: In 1949, Liz Hartel was paralyzed by polio. In 1957, nine years later, she won a silver medal in the Grand Prix Dressage at the Helsinki Olympics. While needing help mounting and dismounting, Hartel’s disability vanished once she began riding and she and her horse transformed into a world class athletic partnership. Their remarkable Olympic success is credited with promoting the healing power of horses worldwide, particularly hippotherapy for people with physical disabilities (Berg, 2014).

Though inspired by Hartel, mid-twentieth century proponents of hippotherapy ‘saw’ her success in dressage, an exceedingly complex occupation, through reductionist lenses. A discourse and practice of hippotherapy arose that reduced healing occupations involving horses into no more than therapists’ manipulation of equine movement to remediate motor impairments. Early hippotherapy in Europe and the United States was not occupational in nature; rather, it was popularly delivered and portrayed as a treatment strategy in which the horse was a tool and the patient passively received sensorimotor stimulation controlled by the therapist. Our systematic mapping review of 35 years of literature on hippotherapy (under development) found, however, that occupational therapists objected to this depiction (e.g., Engel, 1984) on largely occupational grounds, and are now reframing hippotherapy from an occupational perspective (Ajzenman, Standeven, & Shurtleff, 2013). In response to occupational therapists, the American Hippotherapy Association (2017) also recently broadened hippotherapy’s definition to encompass therapeutic environmental affordances. Moreover, the term, hippotherapy, is now being abandoned in lieu of equine-assisted occupational therapy, which better captures the complexity of occupations involving horses (Llambias, Magill-Evans, Smith, & Warren, 2016).

In this theoretical paper, we aim to explore historical and socio-cultural factors implicated in the shredding of complex, healing occupations involving horses and the contemporary reconstituting of the richness of such occupations.

Importance to Occupational Science: Our exploration of hippotherapy offers insights into how discourses and dominant practices can render the healing potential of complex occupations invisible, and contemporary factors conducive to a reclaiming of complex occupations pertaining to changing conceptions of disability, health, nature, and the role of animals in society.

Conclusion: Occupations involving horses and other animals may offer antidotes to contemporary ways of living that are devoid of direct experiences with the natural world.

Key words: Hippotherapy, nature-based occupation, horses as healers

Questions to facilitate discussion:

  1. In what ways, if any, does the example of hippotherapy help to illustrate how other complex, healing occupations have been rendered invisible culturally?

  2. In what ways, if any, does the example of hippotherapy help to illustrate how other previously shredded occupations are re-emerging with their occupational complexity more intact and valued?

  3. How can the holistic transactional nature of nature-based occupations best be studied and described?