Hippotherapy

What Is Hippotherapy?

Hippotherapy, or horse-mounted therapy is a form of occupational, physical, and speech/language therapy in which a therapist uses the characteristic movements of a horse to provide carefully graded motor and sensory input. The movement of the horse is a means to a treatment goal when utilizing hippotherapy as a treatment strategy.



How Do Occupational, Physical, and Speech/Language Therapists Utilize Hippotherapy?

Hippotherapy meets Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists providing hippotherapy utilize the movement of the horse to improve motor control, coordination, balance, attention, sensory processing and performance in daily tasks.

The reciprocal multi-dimensional movement of the horse helps with the development of:

Sensory processing via hippotherapy simultaneously addresses the vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile, visual and auditory systems. The occupational therapist incorporates the movement of the horse, hippotherapy, to modulate the sensory system in preparation for a therapy or treatment goal that leads to a functional activity.

Hippotherapy meets Physical Therapy

Physical therapists who have had training in hippotherapy may incorporate the multi-dimensional movement of the horse to achieve the following goals:
Improvement in gross motor skills and functional activities for developing children with disabilities has been reported. Impairments are addressed through the variability of the horse’s movement by modifying the rhythm, tempo and cadence of the horse’s movement.

Hippotherapy meets Speech/Language Therapy

Speech Therapists use the repetitive, rhythmical, organized movement of the horse to facilitate organization in the mind and body of the child. This organized thinking helps the child to put their words and thoughts together to communicate more effectively. Since the riders are very motivated for their horses to start moving, it is often seen that a child will say their first words (“Walk On, Angel”) in effort to get their horse to go!

Incorporating hippotherapy into a speech/language pathology session is a powerful tool for the facilitation of the key neuromotor systems that support function. Speech therapists combine therapy activities off of the horse with therapy on the horse (hippotherapy) to achieve the greatest outcomes.