Hippo is Greek for horse. Hippotherapy is a form of physical, occupational and speech therapy in which a therapist uses the movements of a horse as part of an integrated treatment plan to improve functional outcomes for a wide variety of clients. Unlike therapeutic horseback riding (where specific riding skills are taught), when utilizing hippotherapy the movement of the horse is the means to a treatment goal.
Through the use of hippotherapy, a foundation is established to improve neurological function and sensory processing, which can be generalized to a wide range of daily activities. For example, the horse's gait provides a rhythmic motion that simulates the pelvic sway that occurs during walking. Therefore, the motion felt in riding the horse could improve the client's ability to walk. Also as a horse moves, it continually challenges the rider to make small adjustments in order to maintain their balance and posture; this strengthens the rider. It is even more challenging when the rider is asked to perform a movement while the horse is in motion which often stretches and further strengthens the rider. Another advantage of the use of a horse is that the horse usually engages a client so that they do not even feel like they are working; smiles are often seen on the faces of our clients and they are able to relax and interact with others in ways that they usually don't. In lives that are often as difficult as are those of our clients, it is rewarding to provide therapy, happiness and success all at the same time.
Hippotherapy: Clients work individually with licensed physical, occupational and speech therapists to achieve their personal clinical goals while on horseback. Our twenty two therapy horses provide a wide range of movements, gaits and girths to customize our clients' sessions.
Therapeutic Riding: Certified Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) instructors teach riding skills and horsemanship to empower riders with new skills and help improve their self-esteem while growing stronger.
For more information about the use of horse as means of therapy, see:
Silkwood-Sherer D, Killian C, Long T, Martin K, (2012) Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association, May;92(5):707-717.
MacPhail HEA, Edwards J, Golding, J, Miller K, Mosier C, Zwiers T. Trunk postural reactions in children with and without cerebral palsy during therapeutic horseback riding. Ped Phys Ther. 1998;10:143-147.
Bertoti DB. Effect of therapeutic horseback riding on posture in children with cerebral palsy. Phys Ther. 1988;10:505-1512. [PubMed]
Shinomiya Y, Ozawa T, Hosaka Y, Wang S, Ishida K, Kimura T. Development and Physical Training Evaluation of Horseback Riding Therapeutic Equipment. Proceedings of the 2003 IEEU/ASME International Conference on Advanced Intelligent Mechatronics (AIM 2003) 2003;1239-1243.