Hippotherapy: How Horses Can Help in Occupational Therapy


Hippotherapy is a therapeutic approach that utilizes the movement of the horse. It is gaining recognition as a valuable component of occupational therapy interventions. This approach involves using the natural, rhythmic movement of horses to address a wide range of physical, emotional, and cognitive challenges faced by individuals with disabilities. Why hippotherapy though? Hippotherapy can be a valuable tool for addressing a wide range of challenges and promoting overall functional independence for clients.  

Benefits of Hippotherapy

From a physical standpoint, the three-dimensional movement of the horse’s gait provides sensory input. This input can be particularly beneficial for individuals with sensory processing difficulties. The horse provides a dynamic base of support making it an excellent tool to address gross motor skills. The gentle and rhythmic motion promotes postural control, balance, and coordination, making it an effective tool for addressing motor challenges.

In addition, the emotional and psychological benefits of engaging with horses are significant. Many clients experience a sense of empowerment and increased self-confidence through their interactions with these gentle animals. This leads to improvements in mood and overall well-being.

As well, the human-animal bond that forms during hippotherapy sessions can foster trust and emotional connections. These are integral to the therapeutic process. From a social perspective, hippotherapy presents opportunities for individuals to engage in meaningful interactions with the therapy team, volunteers, and peers. These interactions can support the development of social skills, enhance communication abilities, and provide opportunities for social participation in a unique and motivating environment.

In summary, the incorporation of hippotherapy into occupational therapy interventions offers a holistic and dynamic approach to addressing the diverse needs of clients. By capitalizing on the basic qualities of horses, occupational therapists can help their clients achieve therapeutic goals in a unique and engaging way. This ultimately enhances their quality of life and functional independence. Programs, such as Eagle Mount, offer opportunities for horsemanship programs. If this is something you think could benefit your child, talk to your OT. Check out this video to learn more about hippotherapy.