Innovative Hippotherapy

REST© Hour at Camp

What is REST©?

REST© stands for “Responsive Equine Simulator Therapy”. The REST© machine, displayed here, is a comfortably-sized therapeutic seat designed to mimic the motion and gait of a walking horse to help focus and relax neurodiverse children. The REST© chair’s design and price point allows therapists, school systems, and households (and Camp Sequoia!) to provide the benefits of equine motion inside any space without the need for an actual horse and the expenses their upkeep incurs.

REST Hour at Camp Sequoia

Since the summer of 2020, Camp Sequoia’s resident programs offered short and longer term supervised access to REST© by GAIT. Dr. Lew Neumann, Camp Psychologist, and the social skills team offered our campers the opportunity to use the REST© in structured settings. Our camper population, which is largely comprised of students with ADHD and twice-exceptional diagnoses, completed a voluntary survey before and after REST© use. The majority of the campers reported that using the REST© unit, even for a matter of minutes, had positive outcomes on their mood. Several themes came up in these surveys, specifically campers age 10-12 who noted that they felt calmer and more relaxed after their engagement with the REST© unit.

We noted that the posture and non-verbal whole body affect of campers using the REST© was consistent with less
tension and reduced stress when talking with a group.
Camp Sequoia’s Social Skills Director

While several members of our camp population have access to REST© at home, school or with a school year therapist, many campers were introduced to REST© technology for the first time at Camp Sequoia. We continue to see the benefit of research-based approaches to help our campers with their mood and ability to focus. We are excited that campers continue to benefit from having the REST© as one of the options at Camp Sequoia to help our campers grow into the best versions of themselves.

REST© Introduction and Integration

Camp Sequoia utilized two REST© units during our summer 2020 residential session. After introducing the REST during the start of camp, we noted that the REST© machines helped our campers with speaking to a group, especially in a small group social setting, when introducing themselves to others. One week after these icebreakers, we then gave our campers the chance to utilize the REST© machines again while choosing one of their fellow campers at random and re-introducing them to the cohort. Given the option, 100% of each cohort chosen to utilize the REST© while doing this re-introduction.

We found that, compared to similar activities done without the REST© in prior years, student re-introductions were more vivid, with more details and included synthesis of information from the week that they had lived together rather than just recall of student directed information from introduction day. Interestingly, we put no time limit on these reintroductions, and found that students tended to take additional time, make better eye contact than we would have anticipated based upon prior experience with this exercise without the REST© unit. Also, interestingly students waiting to use the REST© next (order of use was not predetermined) were active listeners, asked appropriate questions and there was very little off task behavior. As focus and attention are two areas of relative weakness for our kids, utilizing the REST© helped improve these areas. 

Additionally, we found that the REST© machine could be utilized to help our campers with:

  • Moments of de-escalation when campers grew upset or frustrated
    • both alone, and with guided mindfulness exercises including rhythmic breathing)
  • Self-regulation
    • e.g. available for student use on demand)
  • Dealing with grief
    • We had a camper who lost a pet during their stay with us, and we found the REST machine helpful in coping with this loss, paired with support from our Social Skills Team.
  • A “less scary” option to real-life horseback riding excursions
    • For those who were afraid of horses, or had allergies to significant elements of nature, the REST© was a viable alternative
  • A substitute conversation starter for kids with our social worker, school counselor, and clinician when our designated therapy dog was otherwise occupied