What is Hippotherapy?
Hippotherapy (HPOT, from the Greek "hippo" meaning "horse") is a treatment strategy used by a physical, occupational, or speech therapist. The therapist uses the movement of the horse to address challenges the patient has, such as deficits in balance, strength, endurance, coordination, communication, and attention. This therapy does not teach riding skills; rather the goals are geared towards independence with activities of daily living and increased participation in family, school and community life.
How does the horse’s movement help?
The movement of the horse creates a multi-sensory experience that is controlled by a horse handler under the direction of the therapist. The three-dimensional movement imparted to the patient from the horse's movement creates a pattern that is similar to normal walking in the patient. This movement cannot be duplicated in traditional clinical settings. As a result of the horse's movement, the patient makes improvements with balance, strength, coordination, and postural control. In addition, the horse’s rhythmic movement and patient’s position on the horse can be changed, to provide specific and regulating input to balance, hearing, visual, skin and joint sensory receptors. Once regulated, patients are able to interact with their environment and have improved shared attention and communication.
Improvements in all of these areas can result in increased independence with activities such as walking, dressing and talking. A typical therapy session takes place on the back of the horse, in our on-site treatment room and in the natural environment of the barn.