Edit post Follow this blog Administration + Create my blog
June 24 2011 6 24 /06 /June /2011 21:26

tumblr lcnvcutTS81qdp3nbo1 500The word hippotherapy is derived from the Greek hippos meaning horse. Hippotherapy is therefore treatment or therapy that is aided by a horse.


Throughout history horses have been used in many ways to help improve our quality of life. They have been essential for farming, battles, transport, entertainment, sports, herding animals and police work amongst many other uses. Their versatility and ability to be easily trained have made horses an important part of many cultures throughout history. Horses have recently played an important part in therapy and have been proven useful therapeutic aids to the therapist.


Hippotherapy in its purest form is carried out by occupational therapists, physiotherapists and speech therapists. It is based on a classic German model of practice used since the 1960s. Therapists need to have had the relevant training and hold a certificate of clinical competence (SLP/CCC) if they are using the classical method as this involves the movement of the horse to influence the client.


Hippotherapy can therefore be described as the use of the movement of the horse as a treatment strategy to address impairments, functional limitations and disabilities in children with neuromotor and sensory dysfunction. Carefully graded motor and sensory input is provided to achieve treatment goals. It can then be generalised to a wide range of daily activities. Hippotherapy may also be used with adults, but it is more commonly started at an early age where the therapeutic effects and results are more immediate.  



Hippotherapy is the medical application of the horse in therapy. The use of the movement of the horse makes hippotherapy unique to other equine-assisted therapies as the movement is multi-dimensional, variable, rhythmic and repetitive. It is purely the horses movement that influences the patient who in turn passively responds to and interacts with this movement. The therapist can then analyse the patient's response and adjust the way the horse moves accordingly. The therapist therefore needs sufficient understanding of the way horses move to be able to direct the horse and alter the tempo of the gait or length of stride. 


The primary focus of classic hyppotherapy is the patient's posture and movement response. The horse provides a dynamic base of support, making it an excellent tool for increasing trunk strength and control, balance, postural control (strength and endurance), addressing weight bearing, co-ordination and motor planning.The horse's movement also helps with the development of fine motor skills, visual motor skills, bilateral co-ordination, attention and cognition. The child needs to perform subtle adjustments in the trunk to maintain a stable position whilst the horse increases it's speed, slows down or lengthens and shortens its stride. Whilst this is happening the therapist can work on specific targets that facilitate co-ordination, motor planning, timing, respiratory control and attention skills through graded activities.




Hippotherapy can be used to address sensory processing issues. It provides input to the vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile, visual and auditory systems. The occupational therapist can incorporate the movement of the horse to modulate the sensory system in preparation for a therapy or treatment goal that will lead to a functional activity. the results can be seen from the appropriate adaptive responses from the child and often influence emotional, social, behavioural and communication outcomes.


There are other equine assisted therapies that benefit mental health, learning disabilities and autism. The child may be on or off the horse during these therapy sessions as they do not rely on the movement of the horse to influence or facilitate an adaptive response in the child. Treatment with other equine assisted therapies is not focused on the child's posture and movement, but includes a number of beneficial equine activities that involve handling the horse, grooming, riding, driving and vaulting amongst other activities. These activities provide the child with opportunities to increase self awareness with programmes that work on behaviours, feelings and attitudes amongst many other intrapersonal aspects.


Occupational therapists using hippotherapy will provide one-to-one hands on intervention and  continued assessment as to how the patient is responding. Adjustments are made where necessary and results are documented. This makes it very different from many equine assisted therapies or therapeutic riding. The treatment sessions are enjoyable and the interaction with the horse motivates many children who may otherwise avoid participating in their treatment aims. Therapy on a horse is fun and seems more like play than work. The hippotherapy setting is an ideal place to achieve occupational therapy goals.



Useful links:






















Share this post



Equine therapy is beneficial for children with all types of problems. Often with addiction recovery it is most beneficial.
Please can we share your blogs on TreeOfHappyness.

TreeOfHappyness.com is a social network for parents of Special Needs kids.

Please let us know.

Thank you
Please do share my blog posts. The more people it reaches and helps, the better. Thank you.
We are looking for a hippo therapy centre in the world . Can u list the top ten centres for our child who is partially started walking and is a CP cerebal palsy patient.

Thank you
Hello, I'm not sure where you are in the world, but if you Google it you may be able to find a Hippotherapy centre. If you are in the states you may contact the American Hippotherapy Association: www.americanhippotherapyassociation.org/ In the UK charities such as SCOPE would be able to help you find a qualified therapist: www.scope.org.uk . The best thing to do is an internet search of your local area and/or country.
I am all time fond of reading the blog, when I reached to this blog I wondered to read such informative article, it inspired me a lot thanks.
Nicely written blog about how the movement is the focus of hippotherapy when used as a treatment strategy by OT's. It's true that the horse can be a partner in equine assisted therapy, but the
movement is no longer the focus. OT's receive a good foundation for later incorporating equine movement into their treatment sessions.

Sian Eckersley

  • : Occupational Therapy for Children
  • Occupational Therapy for Children
  • : Information on Paediatric Occupational Therapy for parents, carers, teachers, students and occupational therapists.
  • Contact