Hippotherapy is a form of speech, physical and occupational therapy or treatment using a horse as a healing medium. The characteristic movements of the horse are used to carefully render sequential sensory and motor input and improve sensory processing and neurological function of a subject. The treatment is very much unlike therapeutic horseback riding where riders learn specific riding skills. Hippotherapy relies mostly in horse movement for the treatment of people with mental or physical disabilities.
A formal application of hippotherapy was first introduced in Germany, Switzerland and Austria in the 1960s as a form of traditional physical therapy. Hippotherapy in Germany makes use of specially trained horse accompanied by a horse handler and a physiotherapist.
A group of therapists from Canada and America visited Germany in the 1980s and learned the basics of hippotherapy before formulating a standardized hippotherapy curriculum to be used in North America. The discipline was finally formalized in the US in 1992 with the formation of the American Hippotherapy Association (AHA). AHA is an institution that educates therapists and provides continuous therapy courses while promoting research in equine-assisted therapy.
Hippotherapy is usually practiced by physical and occupational therapists who incorporate horse movements as part of a general care plan for their patients.
The pelvis of the bone provide a three dimensional movement similar to that of the human pelvis when walking which eventually provides for sensory and physical input which is repetitive, rhythmic and is marked by diversity.
The variation in the gait of the horse also allows the therapist to assess the degree of input to the subject and combines this movement with other healing techniques to attain functional outcomes as well as therapy goals.
The multidimensional movement of horse is very essential in hippotherapy since it leads to great improvement in the gross motor skills as well as functional activities to develop kids with disabilities after achieving gait training, posture control, balance, improving motion goals. The variation in horse movement is also used in changing the tempo, rhythm and cadence of horse movement to correct impairments.