Reminiscences of a Early Pioneer
by Barbara L. Glasow, PT
To have the moniker of “grandmother of Hippotherapy” in the US makes a person feel a little old sometimes. For it was only a few years ago . . . .that I was just a college student working on a research report on “Therapeutic Riding.” Back then, in 1973, it was more than a little difficult to do a literature search on a topic that was in its infancy. Virginia Martin of Winslow Unlimited and Borderland Farm in Warwick, NY was one of my chief supporters in this endeavor. What solidified my career-long interest in TR and HPOT was being at the premiere viewing of the Winslow film “Exceptional Equestrians” that was shown at the 1973 NARHA meeting in Washington, DC It was the fact that the film focused on how riding horses could be therapeutic as well as fun that hooked me.
After graduating from Ithaca College in PT, one of my many serendipitous decisions was to live in Warwick, NY and offer my PT services to Winslow as a consultant to the TR program. In those days TR was mostly about finding ways to adapt horseback riding for people with disabilities and trying to make it safe. However, it was not always therapeutic for the most physically involved riders. Within a few years, I had helped Winslow radically change their approach to TR by taking away saddles and reins, using surcingles and pads and using a more developmental approach with a focus on developing balance, symmetry, alignment and postural control in the rider and using progressive movement variations of the horse to challenge the rider before shifting focus back to developing riding skills. This turned into the beginnings of the specialization of TR with the foundations of developmental vaulting, remedial vaulting and HPOT, but without those names.
Virginia Martin was not one to hide anyone’s light under a barrel. She felt we should share this new approach with everyone. By 1978 I was thrust into the “national” limelight and started to teach in one of many seminars offered by Winslow. Anyone attending my early seminars will tell you there were plenty of rough edges. One participant later told me she had counted 150 “ums” during the 3 day course. Nowadays, people tend to have more trouble getting me to be quiet.
By the early 1980′s, I was doing courses in the Eastern US and Canada, having an impact on the quality of programs in the region. By 1982 I had the opportunity to accompany the US NASCP Equestrian Team as the PT with Jan Spink as one of the coaches, to the 5th International CP Games in Greve, Denmark with riding as a demonstration sport. By then, I also knew that the Germans were doing some interesting things with the medical application of the horse, something called “hippotherapy.” The trip to Europe gave me the excuse to stay eight weeks longer after the competition with Jan Spink to visit a variety of German HPOT programs. We ended up at the 4th International Congress on TR in Hamburg, Germany.
How enlightening! The Germans were doing the same thing on the other side of the ocean that I had been doing for the past 6 or 7 years without me knowing it! I must say the German horses might have had a little better quality of movement and training than I had been used to. The long lining was something I definitely wanted to learn. But they used the same progressions of movement (plus a few fancy ones like leg yield, side pass, and shoulder-in). However, I thought the American version, despite our horses, had a few pluses beyond the German approach. I was using more alternative positions than the Germans and had integrated principles of Sensory Integration which made it more available to a wider population of clients. I figured I could take the best of both worlds and end up with a better product.
The 4th International Congress on TR was probably the 1st congress that the Germans ever took any notice of the Americans. Beth Stanford, PT, was one of my early proteges and had started an excellent therapy program for clients with head trauma in Malvern, PA. She had enough gumption to present to this prestigious group. Well, there are head phones to listen to the simultaneous translations, which is a challenge in and of itself. Beth started her presentation with great slides of her adult head trauma clients being backridden backwards on this wonderful, one-of-a-kind horse. (Don’t try to do this in your program!) Within a few minutes the Germans were scrambling for head phones to hear her presentation with a number of questions posed at the end. Thanks to Beth, our American reputation was forever changed in a positive way. Realizing the importance of international exchange, Jan Spink and I composed a “Report on the United States” that was presented with the other country papers. The bonding was established. International relations progressed a bit further.
In 1984, NARHA sponsored Dr. Ingrid Strauss, a neurologist from Germany and a leader in HPOT, to give a 2 day course on HPOT in Amherst, MA. In November 1984, I taught my first 3 day clinical course on HPOT with the content and format that was the precursor to the present day AHA Introduction to HPOT course. The interest grew and a number of past and present AHA Board members took my early HPOT courses including Linda Mitchell, Liz Baker, Claudia Morin, and Marcee Rosenzweig.
By 1986, it was evident that more therapists were needed to be able to teach the basics of HPOT to make an impact and long term difference in the field. Enter Jean Tebay, the “mother of HPOT.” Jean was a great supporter of HPOT and had always been a visionary in TR. We were together at the 1986 NARHA annual awards banquet in Las Vegas when Jean decided to change history. Jean has many talents and is a great organizer. She pulled Jane Copeland (Fitzpatrick), PT, then prominent in the Delta Society, over to the table to confer on the idea that we needed to train a core group of PT’s and OT’s in the fundamentals of HPOT. We needed to keep the group together to develop a standardized curriculum that could be taught all across the country. Since the Germans already had a standardized curriculum in place for their PT’s, it made the most sense to ask them to create a course designed for Americans. On that night, Jean made the commitment to organize a trip to Wildbad, Germany, and Jane and I made the commitment to be part of the adventure.
Within the year, with no money and no sponsoring organization other than Jean’s non-profit Therapeutic Riding Services, Inc., Jean had made arrangements with the Kuratorium fur Therapeutische Reiten to custom tailor a composite 10 day course that combined elements of their two part course. The trio picked a cross section of 17 PT’s and OT’s from dozens who had applied; got Angela Dusenbury, PT, to be our wonderful translator; and, hired with grant money, Loretta Rowley, PhD, to be the Curriculum Development Specialist.
The infamous group from the US and Canada were:
Ellen Adolphson, PT
Liz Baker, PT
Teresa Barnes, PT
Jane Copeland Fitzpatrick, PT
Barbara Engel, OT
Barbara Glasow, PT
Jill Hansen-Byrne, OT
Judy Hillburn, OT
Pippa Hodge, PT
Carolyn Jagielski, PT
Neesa Johnson, OT
Molly Lingua-Mundy, PT
Nancy McGibbon, PT
Linda Mitchell, PT
Claudia Morin, OT
Christine Terry, PT
Colleen Zanin, OT
After the trip, Gertrude Freeman, PT, Teddy Parkinson, PT, Marcee Rosenzweig, PT and Jean Waldron, PT also played early and important roles in the group.
Further interest in HPOT was fueled in the US in June 1987, with a 6 day course taught by Frau Ursula Stamm, PT, from the Wildbad Clinic in Germany, at the National Center for Equine Facilitated Therapy in Woodside, CA, which I was fortunate enough to attend. Then, the momentous day arrived and “the group” flew from various parts of the country, and met, some for the first time, in Wildbad, for the American HPOT course of October 1987.
After long days of lessons, riding, and practicums presented by the Germans . . . the real work started. That’s when Jean Tebay and Loretta Rawley got to lead us through the DACUM (Developing a Curriculum) process. DACUM is a formal group process of curriculum development that uses workers involved in the field; identifies the duties and tasks that are used in the field; and from that, develops objectives for each task and determines the education and training needed to achieve the objectives. There we were, sitting in a classroom, tired and brain dead, being cajoled to come up with the duties and tasks of a therapist doing HPOT, writing our brilliant ideas on pieces of paper taped up all around the room. Other than our fearless leaders, we had no idea where this was going to lead.
The trip to Wildbad over, the commitment to the project continued as the National Hippotherapy Curriculum Development Committee. In the next 2 years, 4 major meetings were held in Tucson, Toronto, San Francisco, and Warwick. By November 1989, pilot test copies of 3 core curricula were presented to the Delta Society (the sponsoring organization for grants) at its annual meeting in Parsippany, NJ. The curricula developed became the basis for the present AHA courses.
From 1990 to 1992, the group began to change and evolve and its purpose shifted. An average of 2 major meetings per year continued to be held in various parts of the country. The focus shifted to fleshing out the curricula and developing audiovisuals and materials to go with each course.
Participants in the courses being taught were responding positively. More and more people attending the courses were asking for more than just the course information. They wanted networking; information on topics outside of the courses; an intermediate level course; and assistance with research ideas.
It became obvious that a more formal and permanent organization needed to be formed. The field of TR was in transition. Many of the people that were more connected with health professions and academia had been attracted to the Delta Society and its tract for TR. Delta had been supportive of our group and welcomed the possibility of a more formal affiliation with us. NARHA was struggling over a variety of issues including the direction the organization should take. There were a number of elements within the NARHA membership that were pulling the organization in several directions.
Our group had many long and serious talks about what to do. We discussed becoming a separate organization, affiliating with the Delta Society; becoming a section of the APTA, AOTA or ASHA; developing a section under NARHA; or becoming a separate, non-profit, independent organization. None of us wanted the headaches of fund raising , or the responsibility of maintaining non-profit status. Section status within APTA or AOTA could develop into several separate professional organizations, potentially splintering the group. Questions arose concerning how we could maintain consistency among several groups; how we could foster quality across disciplines; how we could encourage teaming or transdisciplinary treatments. We kept coming back to either Delta Society or NARHA, which had the ability to house all the disciplines within one organization. Delta Society had the professionalism and the setting of standards that we wanted to foster. Though, TR was only one small aspect of it’s focus. NARHA, on the other hand, was the organization that most people looked to as the national organization for TR. It housed all the various people and groups that HPOT included. And, there was a part of NARHA that was very supportive of our group and liked the direction we were taking.
By 1991, the group had developed a Mission statement, Philosophy statement and Vision and had worked on an in depth strategic plan and analysis of options. The analysis included: trends and events impacting HPOT; needs of people interested in HPOT; needs of the HPOT group as an organization; strengths and weaknesses of the group and strengths and weaknesses of Delta and NARHA. Based on this analysis, we decided to approach NARHA with the idea of developing a professional section with separate bylaws, finances and Board of Directors. The idea of a section had been researched based on the structures of APTA, AOTA, the NDTA and SII (Sensory Integration International). A meeting was held on July 21,1991 with NARHA with encouragement to have the proposal formally presented to the NARHA Board. It was a momentous meeting that I was pleased to be a part of.
On February 28, 1992, the national HPOT Curriculum Development Committee formally met in Sarasota, FL with myself as the Chair. At that meeting the Mission Statement, Vision and philosophy were formally approved. Jane Copeland (Fitzpatrick) made the motion to “form an organization that promotes professional growth among physical and occupational therapists and others interested in utilizing the horse in a treatment approach based on principles of HPOT and to have the first meeting of the organization.” The motion was adopted unanimously. An additional motion made by Nancy McGibbon was that “this organization proceed as an independent organization pending the approval of Section status by the NARHA Board of Directors.” Founding member status was established as “those nationally registered and/or state licensed physical or occupational therapists who have been involved in the National HPOT Curriculum Development Committee the entire time since its inception in 1987.”
Founding members are:
Elizabeth Baker, PT
Terri Barnes, PT
Jane Copeland (Fitzpatrick), PT
Gertrude Freeman, PT
Barbara Glasow, PT
Pippa Hodge, PT
Carolyn Jagielski, PT
Linda Mitchell, PT
Molly Lingua-Mundy, PT
Nancy McGibbon, PT
Claudia Morin, OT
Marcee Rosenzweig, PT
The first meeting of the Board of Directors of the American Hippotherapy Association (AHA) was held the very next day. By the end of the meeting, Nancy McGibbon was elected as the first President, the bylaws were passed, and committee structures and goals were established. I got the role of continuing officially in the capacity of Secretary. The financial structure would be managed through support of a pass through fund working in liaison with Mary Nastan, PT and her therapeutic riding program, Suncoast Therapeutic Equestrian Program in Florida.
In the following months, a letter inviting AHA Charter membership was sent out with an invitation to get involved on the ground floor. On November 11, 1992, the first annual meeting of the membership of the AHA was held at Tyson’s Corner, VA at the same time that the NARHA annual conference was held. During the NARHA annual conference, NARHA member signatures were gathered to support a petition for Section status within NARHA. At the January 30, 1993 NARHA Board of Directors meeting, a unanimous vote was cast to accept the proposal of AHA to become the first special interest Section of NARHA. It was a landmark occasion, soon to be followed by the acceptance of additional sections within NARHA. The AHA is forever grateful to former NARHA President, Marion May, for helping it to occur.
So where are we now? I stayed on the AHA Board until 1997 and then rotated off due to health and family issues. However, in this day of e-mail it seems I have almost as many AHA projects on my plate as in the past. Now, in its 7th year as a Section, AHA is operating under its 4th President. Out of the present 15 on the Board, only 3 are original Founding Members which is where we hoped we would be by now. It gives me great pleasure to see a vision come into being and have it be as much or more than the original vision. We have achieved many of the original goals and many are in process. There are 3 established curricula that are in constant change when needed. There is a registration process, and now, a well thought out certification process. We developed competencies and then standards. HPOT is now part of the NARHA accreditation process. There is still more to do but it feels good that I no longer need to worry about whether HPOT will die out if I am no longer active in the field. It has been a long road and the road still extends far into the future with research to be done and efficacy studies to be completed. At times I feel like the “grandmother of hippotherapy” but also as a proud one, with many children and grandchildren that any grandmother would be proud of to call part of the family.