By Brenda L. Holmes
COATESVILLE — There was a special celebration in the southeast corner of Hendricks County earlier this week as the staff at Hope Haven Horse Farm showed off some new therapy equipment designed and created by students from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
Hope Haven is a therapeutic horse farm founded and directed by Christina Menke. She said the project completed by the students will “help revolutionize the use of equine therapy.”
Rose-Hulman students completed three projects with the help of the Hope Haven staff – New Therapeutic Saddle, The Stable-izer, and the iHorse Simulator.
The Stable-izer is a device that detects when a horse rider is leaning away from the vertical position and sounds an alert when the rider needs assistants or needs to correct their posture. Lights in a pair of connected sun glasses also show the rider which way to move. This project was completed by Creasy Clauser of Crawfordsville, Alex Schwier of Lawrenceburg, and Tanya Colonna of Broadview Heights, Ohio.
The iHorse Simulator simulates the hip motion and core muscle activity experienced when a person rides a horse. The project helps therapeutic riders warm up and gain strength. It also requires fewer people to help the rider experience the walk of a horse. This project was created by Melissa Montgomery of Alexandrea, Nicole Richardson of Janesville, Wis., and Jaqueline Simon of LaGrange.
The third project completed was the New Therapeutic Saddle. The custom-made saddle provides back, hand, and leg support for riders participating in equine-assisted therapy. This project was completed by Candice Sandberg of Plainfield, Peter Moorman of Munster, and Michael Boyer of Richmond.
Sandberg graduated from Plainfield High School in 2009 and is getting ready to graduate from Rose-Hulman. She is the daughter of Michael Sandberg and Rae Jean LeCompte.
“The saddle helps the rider to sit up straight,” Sandberg explained. “Traditionally, they have had to have volunteers hold them up in place. This way they will not need as many volunteers.”
She said it was a great working with the staff at Hope Haven.
“It’s exciting to see the application put to use,” Sandberg said. “We’re going to be able to help so many people. These projects will give the staff data so they can measure their success.”
Menke said the projects offering the farm the data has helped them to decide to focus on research.
“We’ll be looking for grants to help us do more research,” she said. “We know what we see, but have not had the technology in the field to measure the riders. This gives us actual data.”
The partnership between Hope Haven and Rose-Hulman came about through one of the families that attends therapy sessions. Mark and Debbi Christy have been bringing their son, Drew Christy, out to Hope Haven for nearly a year.
In 2008, when Drew was a sophomore at Rose-Hulman, he had a car accident while driving hear his Fillmore home. He sustained a massive closed head injury and chest injuries in the crash. He officially suffered a “diffuse axonal injury” or a traumatic brain injury.
“Drew was a biomedical student,” Debbi said. “That’s how I knew about the senior project program at Rose-Hulman. I waited until all the kids who were in school with Drew were done, then I approached the school to do some projects with Hope Haven.
“In spite of his injury, Drew wants to help others.”
Drew came out to show off how the projects worked. Therapeutic rider Will Crane and his father, Bill, were also on-hand to help demonstrate the projects. They live in Plainfield.
“We come out to ride for the Special Olympics program,” Bill said. “We’ve been coming out for four years and he’s gotten pretty good. That wasn’t the case the first time we came out.”
He said the therapeutic riding has done wonders for his son who is now one of the best riders in the program.
“These projects will help so many riders,” Bill said.
Menke is hoping to keep a close connection with the Rose-Hulman biomedical program.
“We already have a summer intern coming out,” she said. “These students have done so much for us. We gave them a list of projects and were hoping to have just one of them done. We’ve already gotten three completed and hope to have more in the future.”