New Start-up Company Markets Baylor Engineering Professor’s Innovative Hippotherapy System
Baylor patents therapeutic system designed by Dr. Brian Garner that precisely simulates the complex motions of a horse’s walking gait
WACO, Texas (Feb. 20, 2018) – A decade ago, Baylor University mechanical engineering professor Brian A. Garner, Ph.D., had never even heard of hippotherapy — the use of horseback riding as a therapeutic treatment for a variety of conditions.
Now he and a group of investors have created Chariot Innovations to promote his patented device that faithfully reproduces the equine motion pattern that has proven so effective in helping people with autism, Down syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as debilitating conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and stroke. The research, development and commercialization efforts of this start-up technology are taking place within the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC).
Honed and refined over nine years through four developmental generations (shown in photo), Garner’s device promises to give patients better access to the life-changing rhythms of a horse’s gait. But Garner is quick to point out that his invention is not intended to replace the horse but to simulate the movement of the horse when the use of an animal is impractical.
“The intent was not to replace the role of the horse, but to provide a complementary tool that would make these motion patterns more accessible,” he said. “This is something that could be inside [and] wouldn’t depend on the weather. Sometimes a child has allergies, a fear of the animal, or maybe the person’s condition is so severe it’s not safe to put them up on the animal. The idea was, here’s something that you can use, that’s compact, low to the ground and safe, and the therapist can be all around, [continuously interacting with] the patient. It’s just some way a mechanical device could be complementary to actual riding.”
Carl Webb, a recent Baylor graduate in entrepreneurship, serves as Chariot Innovations’ chief operating officer. After receiving his diploma, he found the company to be exactly the opportunity he was seeking.
“I’d been looking for something like a company that I could help start and remain engaged [at Baylor] … I’ve been working to actively bring this device, this new treatment, to market,” Webb said. “Mostly we’ve been reaching out to [clinics] … calling people up and going to visit them and showing them the equipment, seeing what they think, asking them a bunch of questions, figuring out how it can fit in.”
Webb considers hippotherapy and the device as taking advantage of natural healing mechanisms that are often overlooked.
“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. 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,” Webb said.
Dennis O’Neal, Ph.D., dean of Baylor’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, is enthusiastic about Garner’s new treatment innovation.
“The technology that Dr. Garner has developed is an excellent example of how research here at Baylor focused on Christian values can turn into a device or product that has a direct and positive impact on people and society,” O’Neal said.
Scientific research and human need
Truell Hyde, Ph.D., Baylor’s vice provost for research, said Baylor continually 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.”
Already, nearly two dozen of the units have been fielded. Some are supporting research at several Texas universities, but most are being used in clinical settings – physical and equine therapy clinics – and with impressive results.
Garner cited one such example of a clinic where a patient with multiple sclerosis was using the device.
“One of the cables [on the unit] stretched out and it became inoperative. She emailed us asking, ‘Can you come quickly to fix this? For years and years and years I’ve tried every kind of therapy and every kind of treatment, and this is the first thing that has really made a difference for me. I’m seeing improvement in my walking. I’ve been able to go for walks, and my balance, I can get around my house by myself. If I don’t keep riding I tend to start regressing.’ We were down there the next day.”
Those kinds of testimonials are music to Garner’s ears, as he views development of the device as an expression of his deeply held, faith-driven desire to help people.
“If you want to get down to the vision and mission of Chariot, yes, we want to be a successful company, yes, we want to have a great product, but ultimately … what drives us is the benefit that we can derive for people. We want to help people,” Garner said. “We want to be a blessing to people. 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.”
To watch this invention in motion, visit www.baylorlariat.com.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.
ABOUT THE SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING AND COMPUTER SCIENCE
With more than 10 percent of Baylor University’s freshman class pursuing major courses of study in the School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), the focus remains on preparing graduates for professional practice and responsible leadership with a Christian world view. ECS majors include bioinformatics, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, general engineering and mechanical engineering. Among ECS graduate programs are Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees in all disciplines, and several dual-degree programs. The Teal Residential College for Engineering and Computer Science, in which students and faculty live, fosters the pursuit of wisdom, academic excellence, and meaningful relationships for the development of diverse, innovative leaders.
ABOUT THE OFFICE OF THE VICE PROVOST FOR RESEARCH
The Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR) assists faculty members from all academic units in identifying, obtaining and managing the funding needed to support their research and scholarship. Internal 'seed' funding, matching grant proposal funding, searchable online funding databases, grant writing seminars, proposal support and travel awards to national funding agencies are only a portion of what is provided by the various units comprising the OVPR. Additionally, the Vice Provost for Research oversees the ethical conduct of research and assists researchers in maintaining compliance with applicable policies, laws, and regulations as well as providing support in establishing interdisciplinary / international collaborations and industry partnerships.
The OVPR acts as Baylor's representative in pursuing partnerships and collaborative agreements with entities outside the university. The office negotiates sponsored research agreements with industry on behalf of faculty and pursues research, technology transfer, and the commercialization of technology. The OVPR welcomes the opportunity to discuss collaborative research and scholarship pursuits that can advance the academic mission of Baylor University to achieve R1/T1 status.
The OVPR also manages and operates the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC), a three-story, 330,000-square-foot facility focused on interdisciplinary/international research, industry/university collaborations, business incubation/acceleration/commercialization, advanced workforce training, and STEM educational research and outreach.