Hippotherapy… Hippos for therapy? Hippos is the Greek term for “horse” or horse therapy. Prior to becoming an OT, I had the opportunity to volunteer at a therapeutic riding center assisting in riding lessons for children with disabilities. I was given the chance to combine two of my passions; working with kids and animals. It was a life-changing experience seeing how motivating riding a horse could be for children with a variety of needs. Kids who were difficult to reach or connect with, suddenly became alive and enjoyed trying something new.
What is Hippotherapy?
Hippotherapy is a treatment strategy used by occupational, physical, and speech therapists to meet a variety of therapeutic goals. Hippotherapy is different than therapeutic riding in that therapeutic riding is purely for recreation and is adapted for individuals with special needs. Hippotherapy is closely monitored by a specially trained therapist addressing skills needed to meet functional goals. Horses utilized in this modality are also carefully selected for temperament and training. Students assist in grooming their horse encouraging responsibility and ownership in this experience.
What is does this therapy address?
Skills addressed using this technique include, but are not limited to core and upper body strength, coordination, balance, postural control, and communication. Therapists develop plans based on individual needs of each child.
How do sessions work?
Hippotherapy sessions can be carried out in individual sessions or as part of a larger group session which can be very motivating for many children. In addition to the many physical benefits of hippotherapy, using horses and animals within the context of therapy can be a positive and rewarding experience. Children and young adults who experience anxiety, have impaired communication, or difficulty with social interaction develop a relationship with an animal who provides them with acceptance, affection, and unconditional love.
If you would like to learn more about this technique or where families might pursue this nontraditional therapy, please feel free to ask and connect with me by leaving a comment below. Stay tuned—I plan to become certified to provide this someday!