Hippotherapy

Original Editor - Asma Alshehri

Top Contributors - Asma Alshehri, Kim Jackson, Leana Louw and George Prudden

Definition 

Hippotherapy literally means" treatment with help of the horse". It's a treatment strategy that utilizes equine movement in a therapeutic way for patients with movement dysfunction.[1]

Practitioners

A specially trained

  • Physiotherapists and physiotherapy assistants
  • Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants
  • Speech-language pathologists and speech-language pathology assistants

Differentiation between hippotherapy and therapeutic riding

Hippotherapy  therapeutic riding 
Using the movement of the horse as a treatment tool  Adapted recreational horseback riding lessons 
Completed by a professional therapist in conjunction with professional horse handler and a specially screened and trained therapy horse  completed by a professional horseback riding instructor in conjunction with volunteers            
There is direct hands on participation by the therapist at all time  the individual is often taught riding lessons in a group format 
The horse's movement is essential to assist in meeting therapy goals  there is occasional hands on assistance by the riding instructor or volunteers 
Is a one on one treatment and generally occurs year-round until the patient meets discharge criteria  here, the emphasis is on proper riding position and rein skills, not functional therapeutic goals 

[1]

How does it work?

A horse's pelvis has a multidimensional movement  (variable, rhythmic and repetitive) which is similar to the pelvis a human. Sitting astride a horse would involve about every muscle group in the body. however, about the environment of hippotherapy, it could activate all kinds of sensory integration such as tactile, vestibular, visual, olfactory and proprioceptive stimulation.[2]

Another study has approved that each minute astride a horse stimulate a child's brain with up to 1000 nerve impulses. It has also been clinically proven that just being in the vicinity of horses causes changes in the brainwaves patterns.

Thus, without even realizing it, this environment presents patients with a range of stimuli for the brain to process.

Advantages 

  • Improvement in:
    • Muscle tone and strength
    • Gross motor skills
    • Range of motion
    • Coordination
    • Endurance
  • Advances in:
    • Balance
    • Head and trunk control
    • Body awareness
    • Posture
    • Mobility
  • Positive effects on:
    • Hand-eye coordination
    • Limbic system function related to arousal, motivation and attention
    • Sensorimotor function,  
    • Oral motor, voice quality and vocal accocommunication  

[1]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Children's Theraplay. Hippotherapy. https://www.childrenstheraplay.org/hippotherapy (accessed 10 December 2016).
  2. Hrabe S. Hippotherapy: How does it Affect Children with Mental and Physical Impairments? EDER 402, 2011.