Are you growing concerned about your children and their progress in reaching developmental milestones? Challenges with motor skills, cognitive or speech skills, or emotional self-control are expected in neuromuscular disorders. Be it your child, a family member, or a friend, hippotherapy and early intervention can meet their varied developmental needs.
What is hippotherapy?
Hippotherapy is a therapeutic process that involves applying the movement and rhythm of the horse as a treatment strategy with a combination of well-trained physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech and language pathology experts to help patients to promote their functional outcomes by engaging sensory, motor, or neuromotor and cognitive systems.
Horses are fundamental in hippotherapy – a type of neuromuscular therapy that can improvise the motor and sensory coordination of a person with disorders. Horses are known to be empathetic and their healing powers have been perceived for millennia. Hippotherapy is not just a remedial riding, rather it is a treatment tool for treating people with disabilities.
The movement of the horse is known to create neurological change that improves a person’s posture, strengthens neurological function, and sensory coordination.
Understanding hippotherapy as a treatment strategy:
Hippotherapy can be used as a treatment tool for helping patients with neurological disorders or other disabilities including, but not limited to autism, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, spinal cord injury, behavioural disorders, and psychological disorders.
It is pivotal to recognize that hippotherapy is given within the standard of occupational, physical, and speech-language therapy. Hippotherapy is carefully curated with different therapeutic strategies to address and fulfill the treatment needs of the patient.
The movement of the horse resembles that of the normal movements of the human pelvis while walking. The therapist measures the sensory stimulation based on the change in horse gait and incorporates these measurements with remedial therapies to achieve desired results.
Why are horses used in hippotherapy?
Well, for starters, the therapy wouldn’t be called hippotherapy if not for the horse.
Hippos refer to the Greek word – meaning horse and hippotherapy implies the remedial usefulness of horses.
Horses are known to be extremely instinctive, sensitive, and reactive to communication. They react to human feelings and emotions and reflect them back like a mirror that a person understands the significance of controlling feelings, becoming resilient, and building a meaningful relationship with yourself as well as other people. They have an instinctive emotional sense and can’t be tricked.
On an average, a horse normally walks at a pace of 100 steps in a minute. Walking with a horse for a span of 5 minutes can coordinate up to 500 neuromotor of the patient seeking hippotherapy. A regular hippotherapy session can contribute to enhanced neuromotor skills in the patient to overcome neurological disorders.
- While walking, the horse develops a rhythmic movement in the patient that stimulates anterior and posterior swinging movements
- Riding the horse and movements of the horse helps the person gain the right posture and balance
- Both the horse and the therapist can give the rider an enormous range of motor and sensory input for overcoming their disabilities
The recovery time required for the patient is reduced by hippotherapy. It further improves balance, mobility, and posture by improved muscle control. There therapeutic powers of a horse and its rhythmic movements ensure straitening of paraspinal muscles. The patient’s response to hippotherapy is surprising and shows greater compliance.
Characteristics of the horses in hippotherapy
The horses utilized in hippotherapy share certain unique qualities. Geldings are often utilized in Hippotherapy than stallions. Hippotherapy horses are calm, sensitive, and friendly. Hippotherapy is based on the rhythmic movements and gait of the horse, which is why therapists prefer horses having a good walking gait since numerous hippotherapy practices are performed at the walk. They also search for horses with balanced movement to help exercise the patient’s muscles during the therapy session.
Draft horses are commonly used in hippotherapy sessions for adults. Both pure and part-reared draft horses are utilized. Draft horses are calm with meek temperaments that are human friendly and suitable for day-to-day interaction with patients having disabilities irrespective of the age difference. However, ponies are the preferred option for treating patients of younger age in therapeutic riding sessions.
What are the benefits of hippotherapy?
Hippotherapy can assist youngsters with cerebral palsy on a few fronts. Interacting with the horse can uplift a patient’s spirit emotionally and mentally while giving importance to physical exercise as the patient figures out how to ride the horse appropriately. The therapy helps the patient understand the physical reaction of the horse’s movement through a three-dimensional motion of the horse’s stride. Horseback riding requires coordination for maintaining the right balance and posture.
Hippotherapy is potentially beneficial for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as it specifically targets the vestibular system which can also lead to advanced sensory integration. Based on the functional and motor skills of the patient, the therapy may also encourage grooming, leading, and feeding the horse.
Physical advantages of hippotherapy:
- Improves motor functioning skills
- Enhances core strength
- Improves balanced posture
- Reduces abnormal muscle tone
- Promotes even breathing
Cognitive advantages of hippotherapy:
- Improves concentration
- Visual coordination
- Sensory and tactile response
- Improves ability for planning and evaluating reactions
Mental advantages of hippotherapy:
Hippotherapy helps developing self-confidence. The session creates an opportunity to interact with the horse and bond with them and also gives chance for patients to socialise.
Is hippotherapy helpful as physical treatment?
Yes. The multidirectional movement of the horse is considered beneficial for walk training, balancing, and controlling posture. The therapy strengthens and expands the scope of movement, improvises gross motor abilities, and hippotherapy exercises have been accounted beneficial for disabled patients.
Hippotherapy is a remedial therapy whose effectiveness is affirmed by patients with physical or mental challenges. With the guidance of an accomplished therapist with the support of a horse, people can make the most out of the therapy.
At Healing Hearts and Minds, hippotherapy is performed in the open horse farm under the supervision of certified therapists and expert horse trainers to ensure safety.
We believe that hippotherapy can significantly help patients overcome psychological, neurological, and physical disorders through the treatment.