When you think about what kind of therapy will help your child improve their occupational, physical and speech skills, your first thought probably isn’t about hippos. At Building Futures, our specialists use hippotherapy to engage and challenge our patients in a fun setting — but don’t worry, the mighty hippopotamus will not be joining us!
Hippotherapy is the use of horseback riding for therapeutic or rehabilitative treatment. The word hippotherapy comes from the Greek “hippos,” meaning horse, and “therapeuein,” meaning treat medically.
How Does Riding a Horse Help My Child?
Hippotherapy is provided by a qualified occupational, physical or speech therapist as part of your child’s treatment plan. It is a tool used in addition to the other activities your child’s therapist does during their sessions with the overall goal of improving your child’s independence and confidence.
If you have never ridden a horse, you may not realize how much motion they produce for the rider when they walk. In order to stay on the horse and maintain control of its movement, the rider needs to be able to balance and coordinate their own movements. The repetitive motion of the horse gives children the opportunity to practice their balance and postural control in a safe and fun way with the support of their therapist.
But hippotherapy is about much more than balance. It is an effective tool used to improve children’s abilities in the following areas:
- Gross motor skills
- Fine motor skills
In addition to riding the horse, your child will also get practice with following directions and caring for the horse. And one of the best benefits of this technique is that it takes place outside, which focuses the child’s attention outward on the horse, their therapist’s directions, and the nature around them. Getting the attention focused outward like this is an effective way of improving a person’s mood and confidence.
Lastly, the horses we use for hippotherapy sessions are specifically chosen to be calm and tolerant of children. In fact, the horses probably love these sessions just as much as the children do!
Does Hippotherapy Help with Sensory Input Difficulties?
Yes! There are many sensations that your child will experience when they participate in hippotherapy. These include the sights, sounds and smells typical of horse stables and the outdoors. It also includes touch, since riding and caring for a horse is a highly tactile experience. The common sensations your child will encounter include:
- The horse’s coat and mane
- Your child’s helmet
- The saddle
- The horse’s brush
- The reins
The horse’s repetitive motion also provides consistent sensory and motor input, which can help improve sensory processing and neurological function.
Our professional therapists at Building Futures have found that our patients are highly motivated to accept sensory input during hippotherapy because the reward of riding and bonding with a horse is so appealing.
Interested in Hippotherapy for Your Child?
Hippotherapy is a tool used in tandem with occupational, physical and speech therapies, which means it can improve the same conditions that are treated by those therapies. Your child may benefit from hippotherapy if they have:
- Cerebral palsy
- Sensory processing difficulties
- Genetic conditions
- Muscular dystrophy
- And much more
If you are interested in hippotherapy for your child, our therapists will be happy to answer any questions you might have about adding this tool to your child’s current therapy.
Why You Should Choose Us
At Building Futures, we believe that every child deserves the opportunity to become as independent as possible, no matter their circumstances in life. We work to empower children and families every day with encouragement, support and tools to help them succeed in their goals. Our team truly believes that we can help children build a better future for themselves, one step at a time.
If your child is living with a condition that impacts their daily life, we want to help!
Call our office to learn how hippotherapy can help your child achieve more independence and control in their life. You want the best for your child and so do we. The first step toward building their better future is to call and schedule your appointment. Call us today!
Interested in Becoming a Sponsor for the Building Futures Children?
Building Futures Pediatric Therapy has teamed up with a wonderful non-profit organization, Outdoor Wilderness Learning (OWL) Equine Center to provide horses, a leader, and side walkers all needed for the safety of the children. All money donated will go towards the facility fee at the OWL Equine Center. Your donation would take away the financial burden that some of our parent’s face by covering the fee needed to attend these services. When you become a sponsor, you are not only helping children, but you are supporting local business!
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