Could Hippotherapy Benefit Your Patients?

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Could Hippotherapy Benefit Your Patients?

Horse riding might not be the first thing you think about when it comes to improving patient outcomes. However, it might be just the thing your patient needs to speed up recovery. NARA would like to give you an overview of hippotherapy, and how your patients could benefit from having it added to their recovery program.

History of Hippotherapy

“Hippo” is Greek for horse, and the Greeks were some of the first to use this type of therapy. According to Gary Merendino with the National Center for Equine Facilitated Therapy (NCEFT), the ancient Greeks used to place their wounded warriors on their horses to strengthen their core.

Benefits of Hippotherapy

At first glance, hippotherapy may look like horse riding lessons, but it’s far more than that. Therapists direct the horse’s movement to create movement in the patient and promote variations in the patients’ response. It can help with balance, endurance, core strength and respiratory function.

Because of the high repetition of movement, Chris Swan, MSPT, who also works for the NCEFT, equates equine therapy to “walking three football fields in half an hour.”

Hippotherapy and Wounded Warriors

Just as the ancient Greeks found out centuries ago, returning soldiers also reap many benefits from hippotherapy. At Walter Reed Army Medical Center, soldiers learn to walk with their new prostheses by first riding a horse. It forces them to use their body and brain in-sync, which improves their stability when they’ve loss a limb.

“A horse’s movement through the hips is the same 3-dimensional movement that humans have when they walk normally,” said Mary Jo Beckman, therapeutic horseback riding instructor. “So by virtue of these individuals sitting on top of the horse, then their bodies are getting worked as if they’re walking normally.”

Additionally, many soldiers find that that bonding with a horse aids them in re-entering society, boosting their confidence and mitigating the impact of PTSD.

Official recognition

In a letter to the American Hippotherapy Association, former APTA president R. Scott Ward recognized the practice of hippotherapy as “considered a treatment strategy consistent with interventions of therapeutic exercise.”

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