27 August 2009

Mobility sufferers to benefit from horse therapy

AN inspirational woman with cerebral palsy is opening a horse power therapy centre to help people with neurological disorders improve their mobility.
Dr Dorothee Debuse has spastic diplegia – cerebral palsy which affects her legs – and first experienced the healing power of hippotherapy, a specialist physiotherapy intervention using horses, when she was eight years old.

Now she is setting up hADVERTISEMENTer own centre – Horse Power for Ability – in Titilington near Glanton after receiving more than £8,000 funding from One North East as part of the funded by the Northumberland Uplands LEADER programme which is made available through the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE).

Dr Debuse, 38, grew up in Germany and qualified as a chartered physiotherapist in 1994 after studying at Northumbria University, where she now works as a part time lecturer.

But pursuing her love of horses and helping others through therapeutic riding remained paramount and she is now preparing to open the unique service to the public.

The project will provide three jobs for the area – a specialist physiotherapist post, a horse handler and an assistant post – with more jobs to follow in the future.

Dorothee said: "Because I have cerebral palsy I know what it feels like to be a patient so I'm in an ideal position. When I was eight years old my movement improved vastly after starting therapeutic riding - after four weeks I was able to ride a bike. My condition drove me to become a physiotherapist and after working in Germany where hippotherapy is renowned I feel very passionate about helping people with neurological problems in this region.

"Riding a horse has proved to be incredibly empowering, giving people a great deal of hope with raised self esteem and a feeling of achievement both physically and psychologically. It's beautiful to witness."
She added: "When I worked in Germany I saw some examples of really good practice and my ultimate aim is to establish a Centre of Excellence in Hippotherapy in the UK.

"There is no service like ours that I know of in the whole of the UK, there are only a handful of trained physiotherapists in this field, some of which have retired.

"People have told me that after receiving hippotherapy they 'feel like they are walking on a cloud' and these are people with real neurological problems. Other people have said that after hippotherapy 'it feels like their knees aren't tied together any more' – a few people have used those exact words.

"I get goose bumps when I know we can help people achieve such a change in their ability to move, and ultimately, in their quality of life."
Supported by her husband Stuart, Dorothee has been working with her horse to prepare him for his work, and has bought special equipment for the centre.

It is hoped that the service will be open by November.
Tom Burston, Local Action Group Co-ordinator said: "The Northumberland Uplands Local Action Group is delighted to support Dorothee in the setting up of Horse Power for Ability.

"We are trying to encourage the development of new ideas in Northumberland and Dorothee's plans are really exciting. This is going to help create jobs and opportunities that don't exist in Northumberland at present."

People interested in using the service can find out more by visiting www.horsepowerforability.com.

At present it is a private service but Dorothee hopes that when the benefits of hippotherapy become well-known in this country, it will eventually be a service offered through the NHS.

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