Hippotherapy is a treatment used by physical and occupational therapists and speech and language pathologists who are trained in medicine. They understand the movement of the horse and the human, and how to use the mechanics of the horse to facilitate changes in the client. They use the warmth, gait and size of the horse to challenge proprioception, core strengthening, stretching, and other special focuses.
Hippotherapy is a physical therapy tool for clients with a broad range of diagnoses, including cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis.
A clear description of hippotherapy is one provided in an abstract by Brandon Rhett Rigby, M.S.B.M.S. (2009) who states:
Hippotherapy is a treatment strategy that uses the multidimensional movement of the horse to stimulate neuromotor, sensory and cognitive systems to facilitate positive changes in the client. The therapist uses clinical reasoning and evidence-based practice to make adjustments in the horse’s movement to bring about those changes in the client. Various positions are used so the client may be positioned sitting backwards, sideways, or lying down on the horse’s back. Most Hippotherapy treatments are carried out at the walk with the horse being lead or ling-lined.