Horses are special animals and their healing powers have been recognized for thousands of years. Hippos is the Greek word for horse and hippotherapy means the therapeutic use of horses.
Hippotherapy is a medically based treatment tool used to achieve functional outcomes by the purposeful manipulation of equine movement to engage sensory, neuromotor, and cognitive systems. The movement of the horse affects a rider’s posture, balance, coordination, strength, and sensorimotor systems.
Through hippotherapy, a child experiences many different types of beneficial sensory stimulation such as muscles and joints receiving deep pressure stimulation from bouncing and holding positions. Additionally, the brain receives vestibular stimulation by sensing movement and balance as the horse moves and changes speeds.
The benefits of Hippotherapy are:
• Reducing muscle tone (e.g., spasticity) with slow, rhythmic movement
• Improving attention and postural control with fast, erratic movement
• Decreasing sensory defensiveness or sensitivities with full-body contact (when the child pets or hugs the horse).
• Improving right and left coordination by steering the reins
• Developing visual-motor skills with hiding puzzle pieces along a trail that need to be found