Activities & Benefits

Hippotherapy is used as a treatment tool for clients of all ages who are differently abled–neurologically, behaviorally, and/or cognitively. It is combined with conventional therapy treatments to elicit a response in our clients. The responses vary from elongating a tight muscle, to stimulating and facilitating muscle tone with hypotonia, to eliciting a desired outcome such as a client audibly saying “walk on”.

The gait we typically use for most therapeutic sessions is the walk.  A horse’s walk is rhythmic and repetitive.  The studies show that a horse’s pelvis movement exactly mimics that of a human.  With this knowledge, we can build on the horse’s movement to enhance the client’s movment.  For instance, when a horse is going forward, and a person is astride and forward facing, we will automatically elicit an anterior/posterior pelvic tilt.  We can make it faster by increasing the horse’s cadence, we can make it larger by increasing the horse’s impulsion (the ability to draw it’s hind legs further underneath itself during the walk) We can add rotational components to the client by asking the horse to bend laterally, and lateral components by asking the horse to circle.

The horse’s movement also helps a client’s central nervous system (CNS) become more organized through its repetitive and rhythmic nature.  Those clients who are seeking movement stimulus are satisfied through the nature of the activity.  Those whose bodies seek settling, find the rhythmic nature of the movement soothing and are able to use this as a building block to more advanced challenges both with movement and cognition.

The benefits of adding hippotherapy to a client’s physical, occupational or speech therapy are multifaceted.  Usually, the treatment is in a natural (outdoor) environment.  The clients appreciate the auditory, visual and olfactory stimuli provided via treatment in the natural world.  The movement of the horse provides the client with 3-dimensional pelvic mobility and the effects of this on the musculoskeletal system.  The wide, triangular base of support enables the therapist to use his/her skills in a different way since our hands are freed from stabilization and can be put to use to facilitate more functional activities.   The heat of the horses body provides comfort, warmth and assists with tone reduction in clients with spasticity.  (Especially in the hamstrings and adductors).

Staff members are specifically trained to know and understand equine biomechanics and the parallel effects on our clients while astride.   The horses are specially trained to tolerate the constraints of handler, sidewalker and therapist as well as the client’s imbalances.  They know and love their jobs and are willing participants in sessions.  The horses are given breaks regularly, pastured daily and fed with their utmost health and nutrition in mind.

The effectiveness of treatment, especially when combined with conventional treatment techniques, is astounding.  Clients want to return, want to participate, and are willing to work. They love the reward of bonding with these incredible equine partners.  Their families/caregivers inevitably return with stories of improvement, carry over, and so often, the undeniable urge to return, week after week, to ride their horse again.