Hippotherapy is a form of physical, occupational and speech therapy in which a therapist uses the characteristic movements of a horse to provide carefully graded motor and sensory input. A foundation is established to improve neurological function and sensory processing, which can be generalized to a wide range of daily activities. Unlike therapeutic horseback riding (where specific riding skills are taught), the movement of the horse is a means to a treatment goal when utilizing hippotherapy as a treatment strategy.
Conditions that can benefit from hippotherapy include cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, head trauma, paralysis, down syndrome, spina bifida, multiple sclerosis, dysphasia, muscular dystrophy, seizure disorders, and more.
The similarity between a horse’s pelvic movements at a walk and the natural pelvic movement of a human being enables the rider to physically learn or relearn skills and movements that may have been lost or compromised. The movement of the horse also promotes good muscle tone and flexibility. The most obvious muscle regions improved with such exercise are the back, buttocks and legs; as well as the ankles, knees and hips. The different gaits of the horse can be used to make an individual aware of different muscle groups.
Muscle tone and flexibility are increasingly improved as a student learns different riding skills. The flexibility of equine-assisted activities enables riders with very different needs to benefit from the same motion while learning the same skills.
At Lend A Hand, our students are accompanied by two side walkers and a horse leader. The horse leader is someone who is properly trained and qualified to lead and control the horse. Side walkers can be trained volunteers, riding instructors, or therapists, and accompany the rider to give instructions and maintain safety during a session.