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In conjunction with Whole Team Therapy, Chariot Riders is now offering hippotherapy! Below you can learn more about the benefits of hippotherapy. Call the office at (732) 657-2710 and speak with the Equestrian Director, Linda or email info@chariotriders.org for more information.
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What is Hippotherapy?
Hippotherapy is a physical, occupational, and speech-language therapy treatment strategy that utilizes the movement of the horse as part of an integrated intervention program. In each hippotherapy session a specially trained occupational, physical or speech therapist properly positions the client on the horse, analyzes the client's response and directs the horse's movement. In hippotherapy each client is working towards specific goals developed with input from both the client/parent and therapist. Enjoyable and challenging therapy activities are selected to help established a foundation to improve neurological function and sensory processing. This foundation can be generalized to a wide range of daily activities.

Why the Horse?
The horse's unique walk transfers variable, repetitive and rhythmic movement to the client, which provides sensory input to the brain and nervous system. The resultant responses in the client are similar to human movement patterns of the pelvis while walking. An average horse takes 120 walking steps per minute, allowing 120 chances each minute for a client to experience this unique movement that cannot be replicated by other apparatus or equipment. During a session the therapist, working in conjunction with a specially trained horse handler, can grade or adapt this movement to provide a "just right challenge" for each client. Most clients respond very enthusiastically to hippotherapy treatment and thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to engage with the horse in an environment that is much different than the typical therapy clinic.

Benefits of Hippotherapy
Hippo therapy is used as a treatment tool for clients of all ages who are differently able–neurologically, behaviorally, and/or cognitively. It is combined with conventional therapy treatments to elicit a response in our clients. The responses vary from elongating a tight muscle, to stimulating and facilitating muscle tone with hypotonia, to eliciting a desired outcome such as a client audibly saying “walk on”.

The gait we typically use for most therapeutic sessions is the walk. A horse’s walk is rhythmic and repetitive. The studies show that a horse’s pelvis movement exactly mimics that of a human. With this knowledge, we can build on the horse’s movement to enhance the client’s movement. For instance, when a horse is going forward, and a person is astride and forward facing, we will automatically elicit an anterior/posterior pelvic tilt. We can make it faster by increasing the horse’s cadence, we can make it larger by increasing the horse’s impulsion (the ability to draw it’s hind legs further underneath itself during the walk) We can add rotational components to the client by asking the horse to bend laterally, and lateral components by asking the horse to circle.

The horse’s movement also helps a client’s central nervous system (CNS) become more organized through its repetitive and rhythmic nature. Those clients who are seeking movement stimulus are satisfied through the nature of the activity. Those, whose bodies seek settling, find the rhythmic nature of the movement soothing and are able to use this as a building block to more advanced challenges both with movement and cognition.

The benefits of adding hippotherapy to a client’s physical, occupational or speech therapy are multifaceted. Usually, the treatment is in a natural (outdoor) environment. The clients appreciate the auditory, visual and olfactory stimuli provided via treatment in the natural world. The movement of the horse provides the client with 3-dimensional pelvic mobility and the effects of this on the musculoskeletal system. The wide, triangular base of support enables the therapist to use his/her skills in a different way since our hands are freed from stabilization and can be put to use to facilitate more functional activities. The heat of the horses body provides comfort, warmth and assists with tone reduction in clients with spasticity. (Especially in the hamstrings and adductors).

Comparing Hippotherapy & Therapeutic/Adaptive Riding


Therapeutic Riding

Physical, occupational, or speech therapy, prescribed by a physician and delivered by a team that includes a licensed, specially-trained therapist.
The horse’s movement is essential to assist in meeting therapy goals.

Recreational horseback riding lessons adapted to individuals with disabilities.

Completed by a licensed therapist (occupational therapist, physical therapist, or speech language pathologist) in conjunction with a professional horse handler and a specially-screened and -trained therapy horse.

Completed by a professional horseback-riding instructor in conjunction with volunteers.

A one-on-one treatment designed to achieve individual therapeutic goals. Treatment, depending upon the facilities, generally occurs year-round until the client meets discharge criteria.

The individual is often taught riding skills in a group format, which runs in “sessions.” The instructor must respond to the group as a whole, in addition to fostering individual success.

There is direct hands-on participation by the therapist at all times. The treating therapist continually assesses and modifies therapy based on the client’s responses.

There is occasional hands-on assistance by the riding instructor and/or volunteers, but the instructor usually teaches from the center of the arena.

The goal is for professional treatment to improve neurological functioning in cognition, body movement, organization, and attention levels.

The emphasis is on proper riding position and rein skills, not functional therapeutic goals.

Horses are specifically selected for their temperament, size, and the type of movement they provide for the client.

Horses have been screened to make sure they have the appropriate temperament for the job.

Equine-assisted physical, occupational or speech therapy is reimbursable by most medical insurance (third party).

Because therapeutic riding is an adaptive/recreational/sport activity, not therapy, it is not covered by insurance.

Hippotherapy Rider Information/Release Package
Hippotherapy Rider Information/Release Package
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