Hippotherapy, according to the American Hippotherapy Association (AHA, Inc.), “refers to how occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech-language pathology professionals use evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning in the purposeful manipulation of equine movements to engage sensory, neuromotor, and cognitive systems to achieve functional outcomes. In conjunction with the affordances of the equine movement and other treatment strategies, hippotherapy is part of a patient’s integrated plan of care.”
A horse’s movement promotes active responses in the client which are intended to impact function. The horse provides multi-modal sensorimotor experiences that are precise, rhythmic, and repetitive, all of which are necessary for most human behavior.
The horse lends an organized nervous system which allows a client to experience organized multidimensional movement and multisensory input. The horse’s movement provides a repetitive, predictable, and symmetrical dynamic surface on which the patient can develop and practice functional postural control and balance. The horse provides multi-dimensional movement through space, which provides opportunities to experience visual flow and vestibular input within a functional context.
For most clients, the experience of the horse’s movement is a novel one, allowing for development of movement strategies outside of the habitual patterns. The natural variability of the equine environment is functional and promotes problem solving.
Hippotherapy inherently involves movement and establishes a human-animal interaction. Therefore, hippotherapy may not be an appropriate treatment strategy for all clients. Please consult with your therapist and physician.
Hippotherapy is a treatment strategy that is meaningful and can be functionally relevant, specifically addressing impairments in tone, range of motion, timing, attention, arousal, coordination, balance, and postural control. Individuals with a wide variety of disabilities and diagnoses can benefit from the integration of hippotherapy into their current plan of care, along with other therapy tools and/or strategies.
The horse and the equine environment is motivational and encourages the development of relationships while enhancing mobility (AHA Inc).
Arousal and attention
Mobility of pelvis, spine, and hip joints
Oral motor function
Dynamic postural stability
Problem solving movement strategies
Expressive receptive speech and language
Symmetry and alignment
Timing and motor coordination
Elease is a licensed occupational therapist who earned her Masters in Occupational Therapy from Rockhurst University. Since then she has worked in the pediatric outpatient setting gaining experience working with a diverse client population in both age & ability. Elease has experience evaluating and treating children in the areas of gross motor, fine motor, visual motor skills, executive function, praxis & social-emotional skills to progress engagement in meaningful childhood occupations. Elease has specialized training in hippotherapy through the American Hippotherapy Association. In her free time, you can find Elease taking walks with her 12 year old dog, camping, reading, and spending time with family and friends.