UK Hippotherapy course accredited with Robert Gordon University

Specialist health professionals from across the country can now develop their skills thanks to a unique training course in Hippotherapy which harnesses horse power and physiotherapy to deliver rehabilitation to patients.

L to R - Kylie Smillie, Marion Colburn, Allissa Archibald (patient) on Holly, Dr Valerie Cooper and Katrina Nicholson.Robert Gordon University’s (RGU) School of Health Sciences and the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Therapeutic Riding (ACPTR) are working together to deliver two newly accredited postgraduate modules for qualified physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

The modules – Hippotherapy Practice and Equine Assessment – are available in Aberdeen and are the first of their kind in the UK.

Hippotherapy is an integrated holistic therapy using the characteristic movements of an equine to provide carefully controlled motor and sensory input to allow patients to achieve specific rehabilitation goals.

It is used to provide therapy for neurological conditions in children and adults. The technique has also been used for those with muscular skeletal disorders such as back pain and pelvic pain.

Elizabeth Beckerlegge, Chairman of ACPTR, said: “Having accreditation by RGU is a very important achievement for this course particularly as it was Rosemary Lane MBE, past principal of Aberdeen School of Physiotherapy, who was the driving force behind writing the original hippotherapy course in the 1990s.

“I was part of the original cohort and have watched as the course has grown and developed to be very successful.”

The current course is delivered at Clywd Special Riding Centre in Wales over two taught four day sessions with directed distance learning.

Collaboration with RGU will now allow therapists to gain postgraduate credit for their continuing professional development as well as a professional qualification in hippotherapy.

Dr Valerie Cooper, a former RGU lecturer, is now Course Coordinator and co-tutor on the ACPTR hippotherapy course with Lynne Munro Director of STAR hippotherapy at Clwyd Special Riding Centre and Perry RDA Group.

Dr Cooper is the Regional Chartered Physiotherapist with Grampian and Highland Region Riding for the Disabled, and also runs a hippotherapy clinic for disabled children at Aberdeen Riding Club with the assistance of physiotherapy students from RGU.

She said: “There is a growing interest in the effectiveness of hippotherapy as a treatment for a number of conditions and it is an exciting area for practicing physiotherapists and occupational therapists to develop their skills.

“The modules have been designed to offer specialist training in practical skills which can be used to provide hippotherapy for a range of conditions to provide this rehabilitation for those who need it most.”

Thanks to the work of the ACPTR training committee the number of Physiotherapists fully qualified to practice Hippotherapy has grown considerably in recent years.

RGU will be responsible for quality assurance and enhancement as well as award of credit, which equates to 15 credits per module at Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) level 11.

Liz Hancock, Head of RGU’s School of Health Sciences, said: “We’re proud to work alongside our colleagues at the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Therapeutic Riding to deliver these new modules which are the first of their kind in the UK.

“Dr Cooper is a respected hippotherapist and has helped a number of physiotherapists and occupational therapists to develop their skills in this important area of therapy.

“Hippotherapy is still a relatively new area of therapy so there are opportunities for those who gain the specialist qualification and are keen to offer it as part of a treatment programme.”

Aberdeen youngster Allissa Archibald (5) suffered a series of seizures just after she was born and doctors determined that she had sustained brain damage but could not identify the cause.

Later she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy which has severely affected her movements and balance and she is not yet able to walk unaided.

Allissa now has regular hippotherapy sessions with Dr Cooper at Aberdeen Riding Club to encourage normal balance reactions, movement and interaction, something her mum Linda-Jo says is extremely beneficial for her health and wellbeing.

She said: “With hippotherapy Allissa feels obvious joy from interaction with her fantastic therapist and ponies but she also gets a regular workout for her core muscles which improves both her balance and posture.

“This really does have a positive effect on almost everything she does in day-to -day life. Hippotherapy has meant that sharing my own love of riding is possible for Allissa and watching her ride and grow in confidence fills me with delight and overwhelming pride.”

For more information about the modules, please contact Dr Valerie Cooper:

Further details are also available on the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Therapeutic Riding website

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Ross AndersonCommunications Officer | Health and Sport