Slightly more than a decade ago, Baylor mechanical engineering professor Brian A. Garner, PhD, researched hippotherapy—the use of horseback riding as a therapeutic treatment for a variety of conditions—and wondered “what if” there was an easier means for patients to gain the benefits of the therapy without the need for an actual horse.
Fast forward through years of research and development progress and you find Garner with a patent and a new business within the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC). Chariot Innovations, created by Garner and a group of investors, is one of the first clients of Baylor’s LAUNCH program, a business accelerator to assist promising start-ups that is located within the BRIC.
Hippotherapy is valuable as a therapeutic tool because it produces rhythmic, repetitive movements that promote increased circulation, development of balance and improved coordination. It is effective therapy for people with autism, Down syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and debilitating conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and stroke.
Chariot markets Garner’s patented device that reproduces the equine motion pattern. The device promises to offer patients alternative access to the rhythms of a horse’s gait. Why would an option be needed? Sometimes a patient has allergies, a fear of the animal, or a condition so severe it isn’t safe to put them on the animal.
Garner said the concept is to provide a safe, compact, low-to-the-ground device which permits the therapist to interact with the patient during the therapy.
Carl Webb, BBA ’17, serves as Chariot Innovations’ chief operating officer. With his degree focus on entrepreneurship and corporate innovation, he found the company to be the opportunity he was seeking: a way to stay engaged at Baylor while introducing something new to the marketplace.
“One of the things we are learning is that our body and our whole biology has capabilities to rehabilitate itself. That’s how we’re made,” Webb said. “There may not be a pill, or other fix, and we can often rely on motion and the natural things we’re given to heal.”
Dr. Truell Hyde, Baylor vice provost for research, said the University encourages faculty to seek real-world applications for their research.
“At Baylor, such opportunities take on added layers of meaning from the University’s Christian mission,” Hyde said. “In Dr. Garner’s work, undergraduate- and graduate-level researchers work alongside Baylor faculty at the intersection of scientific research and individual human need. For me, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Nearly two dozen of the units are in the field with some of those supporting research at Texas universities. Most units are in clinical settings—physical and equine therapy clinics.
“We want to be a blessing to people,” Garner said. “We want to help improve their quality of life and give them something that will allow them to achieve these outcomes and improvements and goals they have for their lives.”