Image: Equine Therapy

Chronic aphasia is a language disorder resulting from a stroke and the potential for improvements after a stroke can be limited.  Some Veterans are often faced with accepting their language limitations in a communication driven society.

Tapping into creative options for stimulating ongoing recovery for these Veterans can be challenging.  Debra Gleeson, Ph.D.,  worked with the Cheff Equine Therapeutic Riding Center in Augusta, Michigan, to make the connections between speech therapy and horseback riding.  This evidence-based therapy is called hippotherapy.  There are numerous influences of a horse’s movement to engage sensory, neuromotor, cognitive, speech and language.

By normalizing muscle tone and posture, Veterans with speaking difficulties may attain improved respiratory function, breath support and work on motor speech problems.  For Veterans with language and word-finding problems, this promotes focus for information processing and increases verbal output.

Gleeson worked closely with the Cheff Center to obtain funding for this program by using horses as the foundation for recovery. This resulted in a grant through the Equine Services for Heroes program to provide the opportunity to Veterans with aphasia to participate in riding lessons.

Four Veterans completed 10 group speech therapy sessions simultaneously with their group riding lessons.  As a direct result the Veterans obtained an 84 percent success rate achieving their goals of improved verbal output, balance, vocal loudness and much more. Most of all, the therapy improved their confidence.

For more information on hippotherapy, please visit

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Published on Sep. 5, 2017

Estimated reading time is 1.3 min.

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  1. Hugh Treloar September 9, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    A great group of veterans who achieve a dramatic and worth while improvement. I am having problems dealing with asphasia in Philadelphia, and the story leads a lasting memory. Good going, and may all of you achieve great success.

  2. Debra Gleeson September 7, 2017 at 9:07 am

    Very grateful to the volunteers and staff at the Cheff Center for providing the opportunity for Veterans to engage with horses, build confidence and open new doors for communicating in their community.

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