Equine Assisted Therapy (Hippotherapy)

hippoEquine Assisted Therapy (EAT) is a physical, occupational, and speech-language therapy treatment strategy that utilizes equine movement as part of an integrated intervention program to achieve functional outcomes. Equine movement provides multidimensional movement, which is variable, rhythmic and repetitive. The horse provides a dynamic base of support, making it an excellent tool for increasing trunk strength and control, balance, building overall postural strength and endurance, addressing weight bearing and motor planning. Equine movement offers well-modulated sensory input to vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile and visual channels. During gait transitions, the patient must perform subtle adjustments in the trunk to maintain a stable position. When a patient is siting forward astride the horse, the horse’s walking gait imparts movement responses remarkably similar to normal human gait. The effects of equine movement on postural control, sensory systems, and motor planning can be used to facilitate coordination and timing, neurophysiologic systems that support all of our functional daily living skills.

Physical Therapist: The physical therapist can overlay a variety of motor tasks on the horse’s movement to address the motor needs of each patient and to promote functional outcomes in skill areas related to gross motor ability such as sitting, standing and walking.

Occupational Therapist: The occupational therapist is able to combine the effects of the equine movement with other standard intervention strategies for working on fine motor control, sensory integration, feeding skills, attention skills, and functional daily living skills in a progressively challenging manner.

General Indicators for Equine Assisted Therapy

Population – children and adults with mild to severe neuromusculoskeletal dysfunction.

Medical Conditions

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Developmental Delay
  • Genetic Syndromes
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Sensory Integration Disorders
  • Speech Language Disorders
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Stroke

Impairments

  • Abnormal muscle tone
  • Impaired balance responses
  • Impaired coordination
  • Impaired communication
  • Impaired sensorimotor function
  • Postural asymmetry
  • Poor postural control
  • Decreased mobility
  • Limbic system dysfunction related to arousal and attention skills