Physiotherapist Guðbjörg Eggertsdóttir is taking a unique approach to her work, offering physical therapy sessions with horses twice a week for children and teenagers with disabilities in the capital area, RÚV reports. “The horse is a totally unique therapy tool and a good collaborator for us physiotherapists,” Guðbjörg explained during a segment on the TV program Landinn. “It freely gives us so much that we’ve been striving toward in traditional physiotherapy.”
One of the benefits of these equine-assisted therapy sessions is that the children feel like they’re just attending a fun class, rather than a therapy session; Guðbjörg and her colleagues call the sessions ‘horseback riding classes’ (rather than ‘physical therapy’) for just that reason. “As with other physiotherapy for children, [equine assisted therapy] is done through games and no one’s going to get bored while on horseback,” she explains.
Guðbjörg says that equine-assisted physiotherapy is a common practice in other countries, including the US and throughout Europe and Scandinavia, and that Icelandic horses are commonly sought after for just this purpose. Interestingly, however, physiotherapy involving horses has not been widely used in Iceland.
"As soon as the horse starts moving, the individual on its back feels like we do when we're walking [on our own legs]. The horse is really walking for the child."
You can watch a video about Guðbjörg’s therapy sessions with horses (in Icelandic) here.