The term hippotherapy refers to how occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech language pathology professionals use equine movement to engage sensory, neuromotor and cognitive systems
to achieve functional outcomes.
Hippotherapy is part of a patient’s integrated plan of care. Each treatment plan is based on the therapist’s evaluation and the patient’s functional goals. During treatment incorporating hippotherapy, the therapist continually monitors patient response and modifies equine movement and/or therapeutic activities to provide an appropriate challenge.
Benefits of Equine Movement
The movement of the horse provides a dynamic base of support, making it an effective tool for improving trunk strength, balance, postural control, weight bearing and motor planning. The
movement of the horse also offers well-modulated sensory input to
vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile and visual systems.
Hippotherapy differs from therapeutic (adaptive) riding. Therapeutic riding is a lesson adapted for individuals with special needs taught by a riding instructor. Therapeutic riding is recreation-based with a focus on teaching riding skills. In contrast, hippotherapy as a treatment strategy focuses on using the movement of the horse to meet functional goals under the guidance of a licensed medical professional.