In an interview in January 2021, Emma Lean, an American Hippotherapy Association Clinical Specialist, PATH Intl. Therapist, Riding Instructor, and Director of Operations at Joyride Center, discussed with Taylor Marburger (a member of our team) how using the Miracolt has enhanced hippotherapy practices over the past couple years at their clinic in Magnolia, Texas.
The Miracolt is a mechanical device built to replicate the complex, 3-dimensional movement patterns of a walking horse. It provides rhythmic movement, stimulates anterior and posterior swinging motions and encourages the rider to improve proper balance and posture. The device also simultaneously allows for riders to receive a wide range of sensory and motor input.
Joyride Center offers equine assisted activities and therapies through therapeutic horsemanship and physical therapy. The non-profit organization saw the benefit of investing in the Miracolt at its release and has since witnessed its impact on patients’ quality of life.
Despite the financial crisis, Joyride Center recently invested in a new Miracolt to help them get prepared for their return to full capacity. The clinic currently holds three Miracolt devices for therapy. They believe the devices are essential in offering hippotherapy services. “We would be struggling without them,” Lean said.
The clinic helps provide services to a wide variety of patients diagnosed with autism, cerebral palsy, or other general cognitive delays, in addition to those who have experienced strokes, seizures, or setbacks from surgery. The Miracolt has sought to benefit each in a distinctive way.
Being able to fine tune, refine, and regulate the speed are significant factors unique to the Miracolt. Though time frame and speed varies for each patient based on their goals and abilities, at Joyride Center a standard warmup use of the Miracolt consists of riding for 10 to 15 minutes at a ranged pace of 30 to 60 Hz. Lean discussed how the device can serve as a supportive tool to warmup for horses, or as the primary tool for full therapy sessions.
For autistic patients, the Miracolt has helped contribute to the relational development in those who tend to experience more difficulty with their interpersonal skills. Lean discussed how the Miracolt has served as a teaching aid for kids, where improvements are directly transferable to the classroom setting.
Lean shared about a time an autistic patient with a mild case of scoliosis came in for a session. His mother resorted to using the Miracolt after bad weather permitted them from riding outdoors. After turning up the Miracolt to the desired speed and getting the patient to stand up, she witnessed the boy’s automatic dialogue come to an abrupt hault. With the ability to put words to what he felt, he exclaimed with a wide smile, “Look at me, mom!” His mom stood amazed. This was the longest sentence he had been able to get out in weeks. The family continued Miracolt therapy from then on and has seen significant improvement in the boy’s developmental skills.
Joyride Center has not only witnessed the Miracolt’s ability to teach developmental and invaluable skills for autistic patients, but also for stroke patients. The device has helped improve these patients’ motor abilities. For training, “therapists will reduce or increase tone based on the patient’s goal. The Miracolt has helped bring them back to symmetrical midline to help work cross-body,” Lean said. “This has resulted in improved cognition, and an increased sense of self and integration.”
Other patients like those who have or are experiencing seizures have also been impacted by the Miracolt. Seizure patients are offered more accessibility with the Miracolt, with the ability to easily get on and off the machine than they typically would on a horse. Similarly, wheelchair patients experience more ease and require less personnel to assist them when riding the Miracolt.
For overweight patients, the Miracolt provides a higher weight tolerance than horses, allowing patients up to 275 pounds to receive intensified cardio work in therapy sessions. Based on training intensity, the Miracolt will allow patients to push harder than they would on a horse, which can directly impact weight loss. Additionally, everyone can stand or adjust if necessary on the Miracolt, whereas full mobility is limited on a horse. “It’s therapeutically necessary,” Lean said.
Despite early skepticism of utilizing the devices as a horse alternative, families have been empowered by the Miracolt’s impact. A common misconception people might have about the device is serving as competition or a replacement machine for real horses. “It’s not a competition for horses,” Lean said. “Rather, it’s an enhancement to horses to help patients meet goals quicker.”
Lean emphasized the positive impact the Miracolt has had on Joyride’s patients, rating the device as a 10 out of 10 in regards to its ability to improve functionality and aid in distinctive progression.
“We would not be where we are without them,” Lean said. “We really see the benefit in them. They [the Miracolt devices] are crucial for the type of work we do.”
Why is this important? It has played a role in creating more functional and happier lives. Patients have built confidence over time and it is empowering for families to see. “If we can improve just one area of a person’s life, it’s a job well done,” Lean said. “So if it’s possible, why not?”