Activities using horses (AUH)
This hiporehabilitation area is based on a pedagogical-educational process. The exact methodology has not been established yet; each workplace creates its own AUH approaches based on its experience with clients. At our workplace, the following model became established, based on our work experience. However, these are still working unsubstantiated theories. Based on their handicap, children are divided into the following four groups.
Children with serious motor handicap
For those children, AUH present only supplementary activities aiming to maximize the hiporehabilitation's effectiveness. The goal is to integrate the children into the group, to create a stronger bond with the horse and in some cases to improve fine motor skills and cognitive element when cleaning the horse.
Children with light motor handicap
This is intended especially for children who have been going through hipotherapy for over 3 years and whose handicap does not prevent them from participating in a hipotherapeutic unit for more than 15 minutes. It is mostly intended for the following diagnoses: light mental retardation, Asperger syndrome, respiratory diseases, poor posture etc. In these cases, AUH are included in hipotherapy in a form of different exercises, leading horses, working from the ground or covering a marked route. Stable work goes without saying – horse cleaning, feeding, and preparation for hipotherapy or leading to the pasture. The goal is to make hipotherapy more interesting or to gradually prepare the client for a transition to para-equestrian.
Children with direct indication to AUH
Here we cope with the following diagnoses: pervasive developmental disorders, ADHD, ADDD, mental retardation and children with combined handicaps – deaf blindness, depressive clients etc. For those clients, hipotherapy is only a secondary therapy form; in AUH we purposefully influence their behaviour and overall social integration. Special methodology has been created for children with autistic spectrum, where we try to establish mutual conversation through the child's emotions formed thanks to the horse.
Children in preparation for para-equestrian
This is for older clients who have already reached the maximum of their skills and whose handicap is not substantially improved any more, the aim of hipotherapy is rather to maintain the existing condition. In this case it is possible to consider a transition to para-equestrian, naturally together with existing hipotherapy. The goal is to prepare the client for independent riding and to select the most suitable form of para-equestrian for him or her. Then we start with a horse on a longe line without securing and with voltige elements in order to do away with fear, and then we practice trotting and independent walking with a halter and reins (this particular exercise helps us to distinguish whether para-dressage or para-show jumping would be more suitable for the client).
From our point of view, getting closer to nature is another distinctive and often ignored effect of hipotherapy. "I see it as an ecological therapy in relation to nature." (Véle, 2009) Becoming alienated from nature is a part of our civilization's crisis, which is connected to a spiritual and social crisis. A crisis of man-nature relationship is actually a part of a broader spiritual crisis of mankind. Especially adolescents need a spiritual environment and a vision in their "metaphysical period", which gives higher meaning to the life of an individual. It is obvious that the young generation became alienated both from nature and from the so-called second artificial society-made nature. They run away from reality, but not back, but to drugs, internet, computer games, television etc., which change their consciousness. Sak (2004) states that over 50 % of adolescents suffer from existential crisis or from anxiety concerning future. Hipotherapy helps us get back to nature, into reality and to intense enjoyment of an ordinary day.
Fabricated reality is even more demanding for children with disabilities, as their social orientation and understanding have been substantially reduced. Nature and the horse representing it provide them with the same obstacles as the society, but for them, these obstacles are easier to understand and therefore easier to solve. Today, "natural obstacles" are considered more demanding than "social obstacles", which increases the child's self-confidence and improves its self-image.