Hippotherapy is a treatment technique that can be used by specially trained physiotherapists, occupational therapists or speech therapists, where the movement of a horse is used to achieve a certain physical response in a child.
The child can be placed in various positions on the horse to elicit certain postural, neurological, musculoskeletal or sensory responses. Hippotherapy is used as part of a treatment plan and not a “teach the child to ride” class.
Hippotherapy works based on the gait of the horse. The horse has a unique gait when walking that is used to influence the rider. In most cases the child sits without a saddle to ensure the full movement of the horse’s gait is transferred to the pelvis of the child. The rider experiences a variety of movements of the pelvis in response to the various phases of gait of the horse. This allows the therapist to initiate a variety of body functions such as:
– Head control
– Muscle strength
– Muscle tone
– Sensory functions
Horses allow for an ever-changing treatment surface. This means that the child’s body will be exposed to changing stimuli from the movement of the horse, allowing the child to develop in areas in which they are struggling.
Conditions that can benefit from hippotherapy include:
– Cerebral palsy
– Genetic disorders
– Developmental delay
– Functional spine curvatures
– Neuromuscular dysfunction
– Sensory integrative dysfunction
– Brain injury
Prior to commencing treatment, the child would firstly have to be assessed for any contra-indications by the treating therapist. This treatment technique is unique in that it allows the child to be in an equine environment which is not only motivational but also enhances their emotional side. It is a great technique which can be used to greatly enhance a child’s functional ability.
For further information kindly contact the writer, Diana Coetzer (Physiotherapist)