Monday, June 20, 2011


Hippotherapy is totally special and unique…no machine has ever been invented to take the place of a horse's muscle groups moving from side to side, forward and back and up and down. This closely mimic the human gait.
 Hippotherapy has been shown to improve muscle tone, balance, posture, coordination, motor development as well as emotional well-being.
 The discipline was formalized in the United States in 1992 with the formation of the American Hippotherapy Association (AHA). 

Hippotherapy can be used to treat a wide variety of neurological, skeletal, muscular and emotional disorders, including autism, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Down syndrome, traumatic brain or spinal cord injuries, stroke, attention deficit disorders, learning or language disabilities and visual or hearing impairments.

The horse's pelvis has a similar three-dimensional movement to the human's pelvis at the walk. The horse's movement is carefully graded at the walk in each treatment for the patient. This movement provides physical and sensory input which is variable, rhythmic and repetitive. The variability of the horse's gait enables the therapist to grade the degree of input to the patient and use this movement in combination with other treatment strategies to achieve desired therapy goals or functional outcomes. In addition, the three-dimensional movement of the horse's pelvis leads to a movement response in the patient's pelvis which is similar to the movement patterns of human walking. 

(Nate is not waving to me....this is part of his riding therapy-he has to lift both hands and stay on the horse while the horse is still moving.)
No less crucial is the bond between rider and horse. Like other forms of pet therapy, connecting emotionally with an animal seems to increase attention span, memory, concentration and speech in impaired children and adults.

It is a treatment approach that uses activities on the horse that are meaningful to the client and specifically address the individual's goals. Hippotherapy provides a controlled environment and graded sensory input designed to elicit appropriate adaptive responses from the client. It does not teach specific skills associated with being on a horse -- rather, it provides a foundation of improved neuromotor function and sensory processing that can be generalized to a wide variety of activities outside treatment. In other words, the client's adaptive responses to the environment and the horse's movement ultimately bring about improvements in function.
Nate rides with a PT at his side and a PT who leads the horse. The horse is directed to walk, side-step, lean, stop and start at certain intervals and cadence to help build Nate's muscles. I was given a ride myself so I could feel just how much work it is. Without a saddle, reigns or stirrups, it is very difficult to stay astride while the horse is moving through the paces. Nate goes to Exceptional Equestrians, and his PTs are wonderful!
This is an incredible form of therapy. I can't recommend it enough!

1 comment:

  1. We could clearly see the results of one session on Friday night! Lots of standing up and walking with assitance - go Natie!!