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Use the information provided on this site as an educational resource for determining your options and making your
own informed choices. It is not intended as medical advice or to diagnose, prescribe, or treat any specific illness.
Toys, Products, and Ideas
for Sensory Education
|Historically, the therapeutic benefits of the horse were recognized as early as 460 BC. Hippotherapy
literally means “treatment with the help of the horse” from the Greek word, “hippos” meaning horse.
Treatment takes place in a controlled environment where graded sensory input can elicit appropriate
adaptive responses from the client. Specific riding skills are not taught (as in therapeutic riding), but rather
a foundation is established to improve neurological function and sensory processing. This foundation can
then be generalized to a wide range of daily activities. In Hippotherapy, the horse influences the client
rather than the client controlling the horse. The client is positioned on the horse and actively responds to
his movement. The therapist directs the movement of the horse; analyzes the client s responses; and
adjusts the treatment accordingly. This strategy is used as part of an integrated treatment program to
achieve functional outcomes.
Why the Horse?
Medical professionals have discovered that using a horse as a tool is successful because the horse’s pelvis
moves in the same three ways as the human pelvis moves. This creates a movement pattern similar to a
human walking. The horse's walk provides sensory input through movement which is variable, rhythmic
and repetitive. The sensory movement provided by the horse impacts the rider’s vestibular, tactile, and
proprioceptive systems. Motor planning abilities are promoted since the development of sensorimotor skills
is established. The variability of the horse's gait enables the therapist to grade the degree of sensory input
to the client, then use this movement in combination with other clinical treatments to achieve desired
In Hippotherapy, horsemanship and riding skills are not taught as in therapeutic riding; but rather, a
medical professional uses the natural movement of a horse to help an individual improve his/her
neurological function, sensory processing, and functional abilities.
Hippotherapy can improve dynamic postural control, coordination, balance, joint mobility and function,
and may also be used to achieve sensory processing and psychological, cognitive, behavioral, and
communication outcomes. Other benefits include increased muscle tone, head and trunk control,
cardiovascular conditioning, symmetry, and sensory integration.
Additionally, riders often experience improvements in respiration, body awareness, tactile perception,
mobility, posture, and oral motor control. Clients respond enthusiastically to this enjoyable learning
experience in a natural setting. Hippotherapy is not for every patient. Specially trained health
professionals must evaluate each potential patient on an individual basis. In order to participate in
Hippotherapy sessions, an individual must have a prescription from a physician.
Soaring Spirit Therapeutic Equestrian Center
91 Feather Ln, Santa Cruz, CA 95060 (831) 426-6077
Lazy H Therapeutic Riding Program
3100 Miramontes Point Rd, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019 (650) 344-4780
Monterey Bay Horsemanship & Therapeutic Center - MBHTC, La Selva Beach, CA