What do horses have to do with occupational, physical, and speech therapy? No, I’m not telling a super corny joke. For those who participate in Hippotherapy, horses are pretty much everything.
It is a treatment used where movements of a horse are used to demonstrate sensory input and can aid neurological function and sensor processing. Hippotherapy doesn’t involve actually riding the horse, but instead using the horses movements to aid humans into a strong foundation towards improving their own movements.
“Hippos” is Greek for horse; therefore, “hippotherapy” literally can be translated to “horse therapy.” Some say that the roots of this type of sensory and neurological training can be traced back as far as the days off Hippocrates. However, it wasn’t until the 1980’s that North Amrican therapists in Canada and America began bringing a standardized hippotherapy routine after picking it up in Germany. Inn 1992, the American Hippotherapy Association (AHA) formed to produce today’s industry standards in for OTs, PTs, and SLPs in the U.S. They’re not the only specialists that use equine-assisted therapy techniques, however.
Social workers, mental-health workers, and psychologists can also add horses to their treatment plans—it’s just different than the therapy. Psychotherapy can involve having the patient on or off the horse and has little to do with the actual movements.
Why do they use horses to help patients? Well, as Shakira once said, “hips don’t lie.” And, a horse has a pelvis that has similar three-dimensional movements to people. Each patient has a different pattern movement “prescribed” to their certain needs. The repetitive and rhythmic movements of the horse tends to lead to a very similar walking pattern in the human. Ultimately, the goal is to familiarize the client with the functionality of the horse’s movements in such a way that they eventually will mimic it in their own bodies.
Hippotherapy is used in physical therapy for:
- Gait training
- Posture control
- Range of motion
Hippotherapy is used in occupational therapy for:
- Improving motor control
- Sensory processing
- Daily performance
Hippotherapy is used in speech and language pathology for:
- Learning traditional speech
- Swallowing habits
- Successful communicstion
So how does a therapy professional get into the profession? It’s easy. To gallup to your new “stable” career, you just need to have at least three years of PT, SLP, or OT experience under their belts and 00 hours of practice before they can take the Hippotherapyy Clinical Specialty Certification Examination which you can take through the Hippotherapy Certification Board.