Hippotherapy is derived from the Greek word for horse hippos and therapy and basically means, therapy with the use of the horse. It was formulised in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in the 1960’s as a tool that physiotherapists used and has since then grown worldwide and across different professions: physiotherapist; occupational therapist and speech therapist.

Hippotherapy is a unique form of therapy as it utilises the form and the movement of a horse to achieve a specific, intended and therapeutic outcome on the rider. Being a sort of 4D therapy, the client would move in the multiple planes and through space all at the same time, which can’t be replicated in a different setting.

Each client is assessed to determine if they would benefit from hippotherapy and to determine which pony/horse is appropriate for rider. A match between horse and rider is integral. Here in W.A. and at Embrace Therapy- we work closely with Riding Disability Association with a coach and horse handler who is specially trained; side walkers and myself (physiotherapist and level 2 hippotherapy practitioner).

Often clients who have therapy burn out, enjoy hippotherapy as all they think about is enjoying a horse ride but within the 5-30 minute intensive ride the client may:

  • Get a dampening of high muscle tone or increasing in their low tone
  • Improve their postural strength and endurance
  • Improve respiratory function
  • Use their communication skills more (verbal; core board)
  • Learn cause and effect
  • Improve fine motor skills
  • Have sensory (visual; proprioceptive; olfactory auditory; tactile) stimulation
  • Improve balance
  • Improve coordination
  • Improve confidence
  • And many other benefits…

Clients with a diagnosis of developmental delay; cerebral palsy; multiple sclerosis; acquired brain injury including stroke; autism; fetal alcohol syndrome; intellectual disability; Down syndrome; Cru-Du-Chat syndrome; Alfi’s syndrome and Rett’s Syndrome are just some of the riders that have the potential to benefit from hippotherapy in attaining a functional goal.

Click on our Articles page to view the most recent research into hippotherapy.