UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Foundation Receives Grant from Variety – the Children’s Charity to purchase horse riding simulators for Witwer Children’s Therapy - MedQ

UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Foundation Receives Grant from Variety – the Children’s Charity to purchase horse riding simulators for Witwer Children’s Therapy

MedQuarter (MedQ) Regional Medical District | December 19th, 2022

Patients at UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Witwer Children’s Therapy (WCT) are benefiting from new equipment, which mimics that of riding a horse. St. Luke’s Foundation received a $17,281 grant from Variety – the Children’s Charity to purchase two MiraColt Horse Riding Simulators for both WCT locations.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic WCT offered hippotherapy, which according to the American Hippotherapy Association (AHA), refers to how occupational, physical and speech therapists use evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning in the purposeful manipulation of equine movement as a therapy tool.

Even before the pandemic there were barriers for patients and therapists to travel to a stable to use horses. Witwer therapists recently identified the MiraColt as a potential way to offer the benefits of hippotherapy within the clinic environment.  The MiraColt simulator was developed and built by Chariot Innovations, a company based out of Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

The equipment offers features other therapy equipment does not, such as side-to-side and forward and backwards motions designed to mimic the three-dimensional quality of a horse’s gait. Research has demonstrated it is possible to obtain similar benefits to gait, postural stability, balance, strength, and other therapeutic goals using a mechanical horse-riding simulator as compared to using a live horse.

This product has been successfully utilized in medical and therapy clinics throughout the United States and it allows Witwer therapists to provide the benefits of hippotherapy to their patients in the clinic.  Witwer Children’s Therapy, UnityPoint Health is currently the only therapy clinic in Iowa to utilize this equipment in therapy sessions.

The MiraColt Horse Riding Simulator is expected to help individuals with Cerebral palsy (CP), autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other related neuro-muscular conditions. This form of therapy has been shown to improve outcomes in mobility, balance, control of posture, walking, speaking and gross and fine motor skills.

“The MiraColt is an exciting addition to our treatment toolbox,” said Sarah Bengtson, Witwer Children’s Therapy senior physical therapist and clinic supervisor. “The equipment challenges children’s balance and postural control and is a fun way to work on these and other movement skills in a clinic-based setting. It is exciting to be the only outpatient clinic in the state of Iowa that has this equipment.”

“This tool has increased opportunities for the therapists to utilize the principles of hippotherapy with an increased variety of patients,” said Keri Andrews, Witwer Children’s Therapy senior physical therapist. “I have been utilizing the MiraColt with patients who might not tolerate therapeutic horseback riding due to size, age, medical diagnoses, etc. The rhythm of the MiraColt mimics the pelvic movements that we utilize with a typical walking pattern to improve the patient’s current walking pattern. This equipment will be able to be utilized by multiple disciplines and a large variety of our patient population.”

Witwer Children’s Therapy is one of the largest outpatient pediatric therapy providers in Cedar Rapids and in Iowa. Witwer has two locations one in Cedar Rapids and another in Hiawatha. Each clinic received a MiraColt.

“Thanks to Variety – the Children’s Charity, many children in Eastern Iowa will benefit from these devices,” said Julie Gasway, Witwer Children’s Therapy manager. “Studies demonstrate how useful this therapy is for many of the children we serve. The MiraColt Horse Riding Simulator is another tool we can utilize to help children improve their quality of life. We are grateful for this support.”


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