The American Hippotherapy Association defines hippotherapy as the use of equine movement to engage the sensorimotor and neuromotor systems to create functional change in the lives of children with disabilities.¹ Hippotherapy is implemented as a physical, occupational or speech therapy strategy that utilizes equine movement as a treatment strategy to achieve functional outcomes.¹

Research has been done on the efficacy of hippotherapy treatment on patients with musculoskeletal disorders, one case stated that: “Hippotherapy represents an alternative method of physical rehabilitation…the application of this method is based on the transmission of rhythmical and three dimensional movement of the horse to the patient. This movement resembles the movement of the human pelvis during walking and it enables the transmission of stimuli which contribute to the reduction of spasticity and improvement of the postural control and balance of the patient.”²

Hippotherapy is currently being used as a treatment technique that is capable of affecting multiple systems of the human body at once, those who engage in this form of treatment are found to have benefits including improving postural alignment, increased stability, facilitation of more normalized motor planning, enhanced arousal as well as integrating sensory stimulation into each treatment session.³ Research has also been done on the effects of hippotherapy on children with neurological impairments which found that “children showed improvements in sagittal plane pelvic and hip joint positioning and trends for improvement in trunk position, cadence, velocity, and stride length during ambulation which may indicate increased postural control during the stance phase of gait after ten sessions of hippotherapy.”4

References:

  1. American Hippotherapy Association. Present Use of Hippotherapy. American Hippotherapy Association.http://www.americanhippotherapyassociation.org/hippotherapy/present-use-of-hippotherap/Published 2014. Accessed September 2015.
  2. A review of efficacy of hippotherapy for the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders. British Journal of Medicine and Medical Research. 2015;8(4):289-297. http://search.proquest.com/docview/1702156877?accountid=158603.
  3. Encheff JL. Kinematic gait analysis of children with neurological impairments pre and post hippotherapy intervention. [Order No. 3346574]. The University of Toledo; 2008.
  4. Francis BAA. Effects of therapeutic horseback riding and hippotherapy for children with cerebral palsy, developmental delay and neurological disorders: Systematic literature review. [Order No. 1444947]. MGH Institute of Health Professions; 2007.