Hippotherapy as a Treatment Tool for Physical Therapists
Hippotherapy is a physical, occupational, and speech-language therapy treatment tool that utilizes equine movement as part of an integrated intervention program to achieve functional outcomes.
Equine movement provides multidimensional movement, which is variable, rhythmic and repetitive. The horse provides a dynamic base of support, making it an excellent tool for increasing trunk strength and control, balance, building overall postural strength and endurance, addressing weight bearing, and. motor planning. Equine movement offers well-modulated sensory input to vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile and visual channels. During gait transitions, the patient must perform subtle adjustments in the trunk to maintain a stable position. When a patient is sitting forward astride the horse, the horseâ€™s walking gait imparts movement responses remarkably similar to normal human gait. The effects of equine movement on postural control, sensory systems, and motor planning can be used to facilitate coordination and timing, grading of responses, respiratory control, sensory integration skills and attentional skills. Equine movement can be used to facilitate the neurophysiologic systems that support all of our functional daily living skills.
Physical Therapists: The physical therapist can overlay a variety of motor tasks on the horseâ€™s movement to address the motor needs of each patient and to promote functional outcomes in skill areas related to gross motor ability such as sitting, standing, and walking.
Occupational Therapists: The occupational therapist is able to combine the effects of the equine movement with other standard intervention strategies for working on fine motor control, sensory integration, feeding skills, attentional skills, and functional daily living skills in a progressively challenging manner.
Speech-Language Pathologists: The speech-language pathologist is able to use equine movement to facilitate the physiologic systems that support speech and language. When combined with other standard speech-language intervention strategies, the speech-language pathologist is able generate effective remediation of communication disorders and promote functional communication outcomes.