Dr. Sabba and the Kids at Kharberd Orphanage: Making Hippotherapy More Accessible in Armenia
It's spring in Armenia, and the children at Kharberd Orphanage, just outside Yerevan, are excited because they can play with their old friend Dr. Sabba.
Dr. Sabba is an Armenian from the diaspora. He was born and raised in Lebanon, and came to Armenia five years ago. He’s a therapist at the orphanage and unfortunately can only work when it’s warm outside. The winter months are too cold to perform his specific kind of therapy. However, when he can work, the children get excited.
By the way, Dr. Sabba is a horse.
According to one of his close friends Sasun Kosakyan, a therapist and art teacher at the orphanage, the children love Sabba. When speaking tohim, Sasun described a recent encounter between one of the children and Sabba after a long absence.
“Today, one of the kids, when they took them to do the therapy, he saw the horse and he hugged the horse and started kissing it and saying ‘oh, I missed you so much. Oh, it’s been a long time.’”
In Armenia there are two orphanages for children with disabilities. One of which, Kharberd, houses around three hundred children, and is exclusively for children with disabilities. In this orphanage, the staff has introduced a new kind of therapy that is not that common in Armenia. It is called hippotherapy. This is a form of therapy that uses horses, and is manly used with children with autism, down syndrome, and cerebral palsy.
According to the website of Ayo! (the crowd fundraising platform of the Fund for Armenian Relief - FAR) that is trying raise funds for the orphanage, “In hippotherapy, the movement of the horse influences the patient. The patient is positioned on the horse and actively responds to the horse’s movements.”