The term hippotherapy refers to how occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech-language pathology professionals use evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning in the purposeful manipulation of equine movement as a therapy tool to engage sensory, neuromotor and cognitive systems to promote functional outcomes. (American Hippotherapy Association)

Both children and adults with physical challenges can benefit from hippotherapy. Hippotherapy can help individuals who have difficulty with moving from one place to another, tasks requiring fine movements, and day-to-day activities.

A horse’s movement is multidimensional and affects how human systems function. The movement can be guided (for example changing speed or direction), is rhythmic, consistent and sustainable.

The horse’s input can affect a person’s muscle tone and function, flexibility, attention, mood, and focus. As in traditional therapy, the more consistent input that is provided over time, the better the body and brain can learn what to do. At a walk, the horse takes about 100 steps per minute— that’s 3000 inputs per half hour!!

Treatment is one on one (not in a group). The client may be on the horse with or without a saddle; they may be forward, backward, on all fours, or in other positions as determined by the therapist to best draw out the response we seek. Most work is done at the walk, with the possibility of a bit of trotting.

A handler leads (or drives) the horse and volunteers walk alongside as needed, for safety. The therapist also usually walks alongside, interacting with the client and directing the team.

We also spend time reviewing traditional therapy and exercises the client can do at home between sessions and the ranch offers the opportunity to visit other animals!

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