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The Science Behind: Hippotherapy

Before we start, I would like to make one thing clear. Hippotherapy is not about hippos. I know, it’s sad, but as cute as hippos are, we’re here to talk about horses today. Why horses, you may ask?


Let’s break it down. What does the word itself mean? The word hippotherapy has two parts. Hippo and therapy. Well, therapy is easy. It’s the treatment of a medical problem or disorder. Now, what does hippo mean? Again, it does not mean a literal hippo. The word hippo in this context means horse, since it comes from the Greek language. So, the word ‘hippotherapy’ quite literally means horse therapy. As in, physical therapy intended to treat disabilities while riding a horse.


So how does it work?

Hippotherapy is used as a tool with occupational therapy (pretty much an umbrella term for therapy), physical therapy, and speech-language pathology. But why the horse? Why not just do it in a room? Well, sitting on the horse actually mirrors walking. When a horse moves, the rider’s hips move with it, therefore simulating the motion of walking. Riding on a horse also allows patients to experience things in a sensory environment. For example, the body of the horse, the way it moves, and what’s around the rider.


What are the results?

Hippotherapy helps both physically and mentally. It can help improve balance, mobility, posture, and overall helps with functioning. Mentally, it helps improve psychological function, cognitive thinking, and behavioral and communication factors.


Overall, hippotherapy is very beneficial. It can help riders and encourage them to grow and work past their disability. I encourage you to look into hippotherapy if you are interested, because it’s a great topic!





Sources:




Glossary:


Hippotherapy/Therapeutic riding: Horse therapy


Occupational Therapy: Therapy for those with mental or physical illnesses that helps encourage rehabilitation.


Physical Therapy: The treatment of a physical ailment utilizing exercise and movement over surgery and drugs.


Speech Language Pathology: Treatment of speech and other communication related disorders.



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