There is a range of therapies available that includes the use of animals. It sounds appealing, but you may be wondering how it works in practise. Hippotherapy uses horses to help individuals improve balance, posture, mobility, mobility and motor function. It’s not new. Hippocrates wrote a chapter on riding as a form of therapy centuries ago, and others followed his suggestion. In the 20th century two formal disciplines developed that include the use of horses. In therapeutic riding people with disabilities learn to ride for exercise. By contrast, hippotherapy uses the movement of the horse to stimulate physical responses. Hippotherapy requires
- a controlled environment with graded sensory inputs,
- a physiotherapist,
- a specially trained horse,
- a horse handler, and
- one patient.
This is a one-on-one therapy, usually repeated a number of times over at least 3 months.
Overview of the benefits of equine therapy
Physical: improved vertical and horizontal balance, muscle tone, motor coordination. Patients experience the independent movement of the pelvis and shoulders, essential for healthy walking habits. Riding provides the same upper body sensations as walking. Psychological: general well-being and improved self-esteem. Riders gain self-confidence from successfully learning a new skill. Educational: attention and concentration. Social: respect, responsibility, perseverance. Students often grow attached to the horses which can foster positive attitudes, empathy, and social integration.