Hippotherapy means "treatment with the help of a horse." A physical, speech or occupational therapist uses the horse as a tool to achieve specific functional goals. The movement of the horse when a rider sits astride mimics the movement of the human pelvis walking. This exercise partnered with the position of the rider works to improve neurologic and muscular function while improving sensory processing. Riders as young as 2 years old can benefit from this program. Hippotherapy has been used to treat patients with neurologic and developmental disabilities including autism, cerebral palsy, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, stroke and spinal cord injury.
Clients are evaluated by the therapists on staff to develop a treatment plan. The results can be dramatic. The holding of the reins translates to the holding of a spoon or crayon. The motivation of moving around the arena on their pony can encourage the use of words and sounds that may be the first steps to verbalization.
Hippotherapy is not just for children, a TBI or stroke victim sitting astride the horse can reignite their muscle memory. The movement of the horse also builds core strength while allowing the client to practice verbal skills and breathing while enjoying a social environment. This type of therapy and exercise can accelerate results and specific goals.