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Ireland: horse therapy transforming lives of disabled children

Ireland: horse therapy transforming lives of disabled children Before meeting Smokey the pony, five-year-old Maisie Colhoun couldn't sit up properly and was barely able to walk but the Co Derry child, who has Down's Syndrome and cannot speak, has developed an extraordinary bond with the placid animal who has helped her and dozens of other children overcome their disabilities as part of a unique therapy on a special farm.
'Hippotherapy' - derived from the Greek word for horse - has been introduced in Northern Ireland for the first time by an occupational therapist at Gortilea social farm in Claudy and families are crediting the specialist treatment with transforming lives.
Using the movement, rhythm, and repetition of horse riding, the young patients are receiving intensive therapy - with as many as 2,000 movement 'inputs' through their core muscles in 30 minutes - while having fun outdoors. Only one other health professional offers it in Cork.
Maisie, from the village of Newbuildings, was born with two holes in her heart and spent the first three months of her life in a neo-natal intensive care unit in Altnagelvin Hospital following life-saving surgery.