Horses for Therapy: How It Works

horse therapy, hippotherapy, cerebral palsy


Horse therapy can be an effective way to help neurological and physical functions. Horse therapy also known as hippotherapy, has been known to help people with not only Cerebral Palsy but also intellectual disabilities, language disorders and sensory processing disorders. For some children, it is an excellent form of treatment. It has been known to have much greater benefits than traditional therapy in a clinical setting. This is because of the constant rhythmic movement and the warm atmosphere that a clinical setting cannot bring to a child.

Hippotherapy works wonders because of how the rider has to adjust themselves while on the animal. After a couple of sessions, the user gains strength and body control from the constant movement and action by working their muscles to maintain balance on the horse. The repetitive motion increases gross motor and fine motors skills. For speech therapy, riding the horse helps the user control their breathing and strengthens muscles in their neck. The unique therapy treatment can help in a wide variety of ways.

Hippotherapy Physically Improves:

  • Gross Motor Skills
  • Trunk Core Strength
  • Control of extremities
  • Postural Symmetry
  • Respiratory Control

Cognitive Benefits:

  • Improved Attention
  • Visual Coordination
  • Sensory Input
  • Tactile Response
  • Increased timing and grading of responses
  • Improved ability to express thoughts and needs

Horse therapy should not be looked at as simply just riding a horse because there are lots of different activities the therapist will conduct to help your child improve on their skill set. A therapist might place different images with words or animals on them around the arena. Then the child will have to locate them while corresponding by saying the correct word or animal sound for each object. The therapist might also do an activity where the child has to toss hoops to land on various cones. This will aid in the promotion of better focus and attention while working their muscles found in the arms, neck and torso.

What is the first session of the therapy like? The therapist will first assess the child and see what program will work best for them. They will determine the proper course of action for a treatment plan based on their physical, cognitive and psychological abilities. Accommodations will be made for their plan based on their specific capabilities. If your child has never been around a horse or even ridden one before, there is no need to worry. The horses are specifically trained for riders with disabilities, which enables them to be easier to handle and more gentler to ride. Additionally, places that host the therapy will have platforms for wheelchair users and specifically designed saddles for those who need special support.

The therapy is a great choice when it comes to helping symptoms of Cerebral Palsy and other children with special needs. Your child can improve on their gross and motor functions as well as cognitive. Furthermore, being with the horse can add huge emotional benefits while gaining valuable social skills and build confidence. Considering horse therapy as a treatment option? Please consult with your physician, they can help decide if this is a valuable therapy option for your child. 

If your child has been recently diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, or you would like more information about therapy options, please contact one of our care team members today. We can help you and your loved one with our wide variety of resources. Call 800-692-4453 to speak with a representative.