What is Hippotherapy?

You’re searching the internet for therapy options and continue coming across the term hippotherapy. It appears to be a popular form of therapy but what does it entail and where does the name come from? The word hippos is the Greek word for horse. Hippotherapy is simply the use of horseback riding to achieve therapeutic goals. Unlike other forms of horse therapy, hippotherapy specifically requires riding a horse and using the horse’s movement as a tool for treatment. This type of therapy requires a combination of a professional horse handler, a professional therapist, and a trained therapy horse. This is a one-on-one type of therapy and typically occurs year-round until the patient has met their goals.

How It Works

Hippotherapy sounds great, but how does it work? What benefits could riding a horse provide? Similar to a human pelvis, a horse’s pelvis has multidimensional movement. Riding a horse involves almost every muscle in the human body and mimics the human pelvis walking. This activates sensory stimulation for the rider through tactical, visual, olfactory, vestibular, proprioceptive functions. In simple terms, hippotherapy activates various senses for the rider which creates positive cognitive, physical, and psychological benefits. Horseback riding is considered a reaction-based activity. With each movement a horse makes, a reaction is required by the rider. This repetitive and rhythmic cycle creates improvement of neurologic functions and sensory processes. This leads to reduced abnormal muscle tone, greater control of extremities, trunk core strength, improved gross motor skills, and enhances balance and strength. It also helps improve visual coordination, sensory input, tactile responses, improved attention, increased ability to express thoughts and needs, and improves understanding of visual cues.

Who Can Benefit from Hippotherapy

Who can benefit from this type of therapy? Hippotherapy can aid many people with different types of diagnosis. Hippotherapy is most commonly used for cerebral palsy, autism, cognitive disabilities including brain and spine injuries, developmental delays, and genetic disorders. You may be asking yourself; if this is such a great form of therapy then why don’t more individuals try it? The truth is that oftentimes, health insurance does not cover hippotherapy. Typically, if health insurance does provide coverage, it is the type of policy that has a very high premium and requires multiple visits to specialist to receive a referral. For families facing these types of diagnosis, they are typically already tapping into all of their resources for medical care and cannot afford hippotherapy.

Since it is difficult to access without the right resources, we understand the importance of funding hippotherapy for our injured children. For this reason, hippotherapy is one of MPFIC’s most popular forms of therapy. We find that the children who participate in this therapy not only see major progress, but they also are enthusiastic and excited about their treatment. Hippotherapy provides many physical benefits, but also emotional benefits as well. If your child or someone you know has suffered from a catastrophic injury and might benefit from hippotherapy, please reach out to us.

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