What is Physical Therapy Incorporating Hippotherapy?
During hippotherapy sessions, the movement of the horse is utilized as a treatment strategy to achieve
therapeutic goals. The three-dimensional movement of the horse’s pelvis and spine closely mimics the
movement patterns of the human pelvis while walking, producing a dynamic and rhythmic motion that
can stimulate the rider’s neuromuscular system. This movement is thought to benefit individuals with
motor, sensory, and neurological impairments by providing sensory input and improving core strength,
balance, coordination, and postural control. Hippotherapy allows us to achieve higher progress
outcomes in a shorter amount of time than with traditional therapies alone because we are coupling the
nervous systems of the participant and our horse.
The goals of hippotherapy can vary based on the participant’s needs and may include improving balance
and coordination, enhancing sensory integration, developing core strength and stability, facilitating
motor skills, encouraging communication and social interaction, and supporting neurological
rehabilitation, to name a few.
Some unique abilities and life challenges that can benefit from this type of therapy are Cerebral Palsy,
amputations, Downs Syndrome, Muscular Dystrophy, head and spinal cord injuries, orthopedic injuries,
and various neurological and genetic impediments.
It is important to note that hippotherapy is distinct from therapeutic riding, which focuses on teaching
horseback riding skills to individuals with unique abilities. In hippotherapy, the primary goal is to use the
horse’s movement as a therapeutic tool for achieving specific functional outcomes related to physical,
sensory, or cognitive challenges, under the direction and supervision of a licensed therapist who can
tailor the approach to meet the specific needs and goals of each participant.