What Is Hippotherapy? Here’s What You Need To Know

Man in wheelchair for hippotherapy session

Hippotherapy is type of rehabilitation that involves horses. According to the American Hippotherapy Association, this method  involves “the purposeful manipulation of equine movement as a therapy tool to engage sensory, neuromotor and cognitive systems to promote functional outcomes.” Hippotherapy can be used for occupational therapy, speech therapy, and physical therapy.

As hippotherapy continues to gain popularity all over the world, more riding centers are providing their clients with such a service. With that being said, it’s important to look for professional hippotherapists who work with specially trained horses.

The professional instructor must be aware of such areas as psychology, medicine, recreation, and rehabilitation. This knowledge will provide solid therapy with horses. Such traits as empathy, patience, friendliness, and sociability are also good perks.

How Does Hippotherapy Work?

Hippotherapy session

Hippotherapy is a set of therapies with horse interaction. It’s used to deal with the patient’s personal issues. The range of hippotherapy effects is quite wide. It includes educational and psychological programs as well as rehabilitation.

A hippotherapy instructor uses these programs and adjusts them according to the patient’s needs. The professional is required to distinguish different developmental disorders and the ways of their treatment. Besides, they must understand the equine’s behavior and act respectfully. As for the horse, the equine must be specially trained for therapy sessions.

Horses are the most essential part of working with patients. The patient doesn’t have to control the animal. The idea is to learn how to respond to the animal properly.

By getting used to the horse’s moves, each step of the animal disrupts the balance of the rider. That’s why they need to control their body and proper position while sitting in the horse saddle. Balanced motion, petting the horse, switching positions, and doing exercise make the patient achieve a variety of goals.

Hippotherapy is a great chance to bond with a horse and find your companion. At the same time, the trainer has to watch the patient’s reactions. They should fix the horse’s movements so the rider feels comfy. Thus, a horse is a unique therapeutic means. The equine is perfect for coping with many issues.

Types of Hippotherapy

There are various forms of horse therapy. Each of them aims to deal with a different array of problems. You may find therapy sessions that use a mix of several types. Here are the most common forms of hippotherapy.

Horse Physiotherapy

The goal is to improve the rider’s motor abilities. It usually comes as a part of physiotherapy sessions. The therapy may be helpful for people with mobility impairments and neurological disorders.

Pedagogical and Psychological Horseback Riding

It includes the elements of psychotherapy and developing games. Apart from riding, you’re able to take part in grooming, cleaning, and working in the stables. Such therapy is suitable for children and teens.

Therapeutic Communication

The idea is to achieve an emotional bond with the horse. It’s great for those who are looking for a balance between inner and outer worlds. The therapy may be recommended for kids who have issues with making social contacts.

The Benefits of Hippotherapy

young boy with horse for hippotherapy

Improved Pelvic and Trunk Movement

Horse walking moves create an imitation of a human’s striding. Such motions are close to the rotational moves of the pelvis. Like the ones when a man makes while walking. This makes the patient learn how to step with no need to walk. Riding a horse helps people with disabilities use their body and muscles with almost no effort.

Improved Posture

The horse restores the core muscle symmetry. While the animal is moving, the postural muscles of the rider alternately switch from tense and relaxed on the left and right sides. And weak muscles are strengthening. Riding a horse improves balance and muscle tone of the core.

Promotes Muscle and Joint Movement

Equines prevent limitation of joint motion and tendon contractures. Horse riding promotes the muscles and joints to work rhythmically and properly. As a result, the limited mobility of the pelvic girdle and the thigh muscle contracture are reduced.

Help Strengthen All Five Senses

The horse helps the patient to develop their senses. The horse’s mane, a kind snort, the sound of hooves, the smell of the animal foster the development of touch, hearing, sight, and smell.

Strengthen Balance

Horse riding improves a sense of balance. Hippotherapy gives us unlimited opportunities. Acceleration, deceleration, stopping, rearing, turning, jumping over obstacles, working out – these help the rider to improve their sense of coordination and balance.

Promotes Overall Organ Health

The equine fosters the functioning of the organs. Riding a horse affects blood circulation, bowel function, and the immune system. Thus, such activity is beneficial for the overall state of health.

The Bottom Line

Hippotherapy helps people to interact with their peers and bond with nature. It promotes motor skill development, improves balance, coordination, and emotional state.

The therapy is also an excellent opportunity to make new friends. Hippotherapy is great for children and adults. It’s not merely a riding lesson, it’s a therapy that helps people feel better.

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