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Hippotherapy description

 
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Time for some horsing around. Sorry, hippopotamus fans – there’s no mud wallowing involved in this form of occupational therapy. The name derives from the Greek ‘hippos’, meaning horse – and refers to physical therapy or treatment involving (yep, you guessed it) horses.

Practised long ago in Ancient Greece, hippotherapy was formalised as a discipline in the 1960s – and today is used as a form of physiotherpay and occupational therapy to help treat a variety of physical and neurological disablilities. And you thought dogs were supposed to be man’s best friend...

How does it work?

Hippotherapy (also know as equine-assisted therapy) requires the patient to position themselves on the horse as directed by the therapist - sitting forwards, backwards, to the side or even lying down. The horse is then led around by trained sidewalkers, with the therapist adjusting the patient’s posture where necessary.

The movement of the horse, combined with the non-clinical environment in which the therapy takes place, can have a positive effect on neurological function, sensory processing and mental health – leading to an improvement in general wellbeing. Who knew that horses could come in so handy?

Is it for me?

Hippotherapy can be useful in treating a variety of different conditions, including:

  • Autism
  • Cerebal palsy
  • Arthritis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Behavioural disorders
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Speech and language difficulty

There are no age limits when it comes to hippotherapy – however, those who aren’t fans of four-legged friends might be best advised to steer clear...

Good to know

In order to practise hippotherapy, a therapist must be a nationally recognised healthcare professional. You’ll be interested to know that the horse, on the other hand, doesn’t need any qualifications.

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Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2013

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