Increasing the Benefits of Speech, Physical, and Occupational Therapy with Horseback Riding

by VocoVision on December 23, 2016

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hippotherapyHorses are quite the therapeutic animal, and can do a great deal in helping patients in various types of therapy, creating their own – known as “saddle therapy,” or hippotherapy.

In this approach, horseback riding becomes a rehabilitative treatment, and goes beyond speech therapy, too. It can help children with a range of disabilities from autism to cerebral palsy and speech disorders. It works because the techniques used are similar or the same as the ones used at the clinic, but the horse becomes the modality to help the rider accomplish their goals.

Therapists practicing hippotherapy can adjust the movement and input from the horse to allow for certain outcomes from the rider. The horse gives a rhythmic input through the neurological system, which promotes the same kind of neurological organization in the child. This helps to make gains in skill. Though not as obvious as benefits for physical therapy, for instance, horseback riding can help speech therapy this way.

In terms of physical therapy, horseback riding can help riders make improvements in their core strength and muscle relaxation, two critical areas for children with cerebral palsy. As some CP patients need all three kinds of therapy to get the best possible quality of life, hippotherapy can work wonders in improving physical health, as well as communication.

To begin a program like this, children must have an evaluation or a therapist from their current clinic write a letter to the hippo therapist organization to explain why they think the patient is a good candidate for this kind of therapy. Children typically receive treatment once a week and pay a barn fee, which is covered by insurance, private pay, and in some cases, a scholarship.

As wonderful as this type of therapy can be for some children, it doesn’t work for everyone. If after some time there hasn’t been any change, therapists often switch gears to something else.

To learn more about if saddle therapy is available in your area, speak to your child’s SLP or primary care physician. This type of therapy can be a good addition to teletherapy, giving children something else to look forward to outside of a traditional therapy environment.

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