Hippotherapy

In our Hippotherapy program, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech-language pathology professionals use the horse’s movement to achieve therapy treatment goals for children and adults with neuromotor, cognitive, and sensory dysfunction. Our therapists use evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning to direct activities on horseback to engage sensory, neuromotor, and cognitive systems to achieve functional outcomes. The effects of hippotherapy on postural control, sensory systems, and motor planning can help improve coordination and timing, grading of responses, respiratory control, sensory integration skills, and attention skills. Hippotherapy is often part of a client’s integrated plan of care.

The focus of the weekly riding session is on mounted activities that build gross and fine motor skills. Specific riding skills are not taught (as in therapeutic riding), but rather therapists initiate graded sensory input to help elicit appropriate adaptive responses from the client. The horse’s provides multidimensional movement, which is variable, rhythmic, and repetitive. The horse provides a dynamic base of support, making horseback activities excellent for increasing trunk strength, control, and balance; building overall postural strength and endurance; addressing weight bearing; and motor planning. When a horse changes gaits, the client must perform subtle adjustments in the trunk to maintain a stable position. The therapist and volunteer aides provide verbal directions and hands-on assistance.

Hippotherapy can help establish a foundation for neurological function and sensory processing that can then be generalized to a wide array of daily activities.

Often, our Hippotherapy riders "graduate" to Therapeutic Riding when their sitting balance, postural control, sensory systems, and motor planning have improved to the point that they're ready for new challenges.

Many of our Hippotherapy clients are young children. Parents note with amazement the strides their children make through Hipptherapy:

My child started walking independently just 6 weeks after starting Hippotherapy.

♦ Katie is definitely stronger because of her lessons. She can sit up strong and erect on the horse and can even stand up in her stirrups. 

If you are interested in enrolling a participant in our Hippotherapy program, please fill out the Prospective Rider Form

Special Equestrians Participates in Hippotherapy Study

In 2012-2014, Special Equestrians collaborated with the  University of the Sciences in a study called  “The Use of Objective Measures in Hippotherapy.” Conducted by students Alin George, SPT, and Laura Santana, SPT, under the guidance of Professor Kimberly D. Ward, PT, DPT, MPH, the pilot study investigated the use of objective measures in hippotherapy and how they may be used to measure physical changes in children with physical disabilities who participate in hippotherapy. The study focused on four clients currently enrolled in Special Equestrians’ hippotherapy or therapeutic riding program and measured their functional outcomes through pediatric standardized outcome measures.

Since 2014, Special Equestrians has hosted Hippotherapy Workshops for Arcadia University's doctoral physical therapy students. Click here to view the presentation.

Download our Hippotherapy brochure.

Would you like to help support this program? Please Donate Now. Our students and our horses thank you!