ITOT Foundation supports the renowned Sint Oda equine therapy centre which offers a unique range of tailor-made care for children and adults with profound and complex mental and physical disabilities. Hippotherapy, which means horse therapy, has existed for thousands of years, but the past few decades were decisive in bringing the healing benefits of horses in the rehabilitation of people with disabilities to the spotlight.
The simple act of stroking a horse and just being around a horse can have transformative effects on vulnerable people facing overwhelming challenges in their lives. This contact with horses can help children who have a lack of social and interactive skills to learn how their actions can send a message to another person or animal. These connections with a horse in a controlled environment under the supervision of experts helps develop self-esteem, improves concentration and attention and empathy and can simply make a disabled child smile and feel a sense of fun. Studies have shown horse therapy including children and adults being able to sit or lay on a horse have improved posture, balance, muscle tone and motor function as well as overall wellbeing.
The pioneering care at Stijn VZW was born out of personal tragedy. Founders Mia and Gilbert Seresia had a son called Stijn who had a profound mental handicap and the couple were unable to find the care services their baby boy needed. After the heart-breaking death of their little one-year-old in 1953 they decided to fill this desperate service need by creating an innovative care system for those with serious and multiple disabilities. This network is called Stijn VZW; after their beloved son. Today the inspiring work at the network of Stijn VZW has 11 service centres, 1,800 enthusiastic employees and almost as many dedicated volunteers who provide care, housing and guidance to 3,000 people with profound mental disabilities and to their families.
Sint Oda care centre is part of the Stijn VZW care network. The first care users arrived at Sint Oda in 1970 and today it offers a wide and unique range of tailor-made care for about 300 children and adults with a profound, complex- and/or multiple mental disabilities.
Sint Oda’s highly bespoke treatment is carefully developed to offer therapy to those with complex needs to create their best chance of living a fulfilled, good and healthy life thanks to the centre’s warm and welcoming staff going the extra mile.
Sint Oda is proud to have its own riding school where horses are seen as therapists and physiotherapists in one; it brings physical benefits by stimulating the muscles of those who cannot walk. It also brings them mental calmness, fun and cognitive improvement.
The Sint Oda Equine Therapy Centre believes that each of their residents deserves to enjoy the pleasure and experience the physical and emotional benefits from contact with their special horses and have developed dedicated equine therapies tailored to the special, sometimes complex needs of each of their residents; some are unique in the world.