What is Hippotherapy?
Hippotherapy literally means “treatment with the help of a horse”. Hippotherapy is the use of a horse’s movement as a treatment tool to address motor, sensory, and perceptual impairments present in children with neuromusculoskeletal deficits. It is performed by a licensed professional therapist, which makes it distinct form therapeutic riding. The therapist assesses the child’s developmental disabilities, provides hands- on intervention while the child is on the horse, and establishes functional carryover of skills to the child’s activities of daily living. While positioned on the horse, the child feels the rhythmic, repetitive and variable movement of the horse walking, much like the movement pattern of a person’s pelvis during a normal gait pattern. The child responds to this dynamic surface with postural adjustments equilibrium, reactions, sensory integration, normalization of muscle tone, and overall strengthening all while interacting with a gentle, lovable, furry, four legged creature.
Who benefits from Hippotherapy?
Hippotherapy can benefit children with high, low or fluctuating muscle tone, impaired balance responses, decreased coordination, sensorimotor dysfunction, poor postural control, decreased mobility and attention disorders. Diagnoses may include cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, stroke, spina bifida, arthritis, muscular dystrophy, developmental delay, genetic syndromes, Autism and sensory integration disorder.
The evaluation will include a comprehensive patient assessment relevant to functional abilities and limitations by a physical or occupational therapist and completed both on and off a horse. A functional assessment will be an essential part of the evaluation to provide information regarding the patient’s balance, mobility, and postural responses to movement. A mounted evaluation will be conducted to determine the patient’s initial response to the horse as well as responses to movement of the horse. Through the evaluation process it will be determined whether hippotherapy will be an appropriate and effective treatment strategy. Appropriate recommendations will be provided following the evaluation.
Hippotherapy Treatment Session
For patients with sensory motor or movement dysfunction, a specially trained licensed physical or occupational therapist will utilize mounted and ground work to address specific function oriented goals. The patient is positioned on the horse and actively responds to its movement. The therapist directs the movement of the horse, analyzes the client s responses, and adjusts the treatment accordingly. Mounted work may include maintaining and/or moving through a variety of positions. Ground work may include grooming and interacting with the animal and others.
A consultation can be provided for individuals participating in SHAR’s Assisted Riding Program. Consultation will include an observation of a riding lesson, input from the riding instructor and client/family. Written suggestions and recommendations will be provided based on information gathered.
Due to the lack of certified therapists in our area, Shady Hollow Assisted Riding is not offering hippotherapy at this time. Our Assisted Riding Program, although not instructed by an OT or PT, can provide tremendous therapeutic value. Please click here to learn more about Assisted Riding at Shady Hollow.