Hippotherapy for Kids with Disabilities

Raising the Roof during the Hippotherapy session.

I love horses. I do. I rode for years with a friend when I was growing up. She was a natural trainer when we were kids and has a successful training business today.

When my husband and I relocated to Arizona, I remember telling him one of my goals was to get back in the saddle. I missed it and was determined to start riding again.

Our new town has an equestrian culture and I stumbled across a horseback riding class for special needs kids. I put my riding aspirations on hold and enrolled our daughter who has disabilities. I was nervous the first session, but it was amazing to see her light up.

The class was one hour per week and held in the evening. That worked perfect with the school routine and my work schedule. The kids groomed and rode the horses. The smiles were ear to ear. I was surprised how quickly my daughter took to the program and she worked well with the volunteers.

I was able to get her into therapies provided by the state and we shifted into hippotherapy with an Occupational Therapist Assistant (OTA). Hippotherapy benefits include:

  • Enhancing balance, strength and control
  • Improved postural symmetry
  • Reduced abnormal muscle tone
  • Control of extremities and coordination
  • Trunk core strength
  • Improved gross motor skills
  • Increase endurance
  • Respiratory control
  • Understanding of visual cues

She’s been riding for years now with a break during the summer heat. We can find some many reasons why hippotherapy so well for kids and adults with disabilities. Some addition reasons include:

  • Provides a sensory-rich experience
  • Builds confidence
  • Develops social skills
  • Grows a trust bond between the horse and your child, the OTA and volunteers
  • Has a healing power and increases happiness
  • Opens new doors to therapy options for parents
Backwards riding uses different muscle and core strength.

Consult with your child’s doctor before enrolling your child into community-supported horseback riding or a hippotherapy program.

Before you start, long pants and a helmet are needed. The organization should have loner helmets if you don’t have one. The first session she rode with her tennis shoes and then I found cowgirl boots at Target that were pretty inexpensive. They held up until she grew out of them.

It’s hard to know which therapies your child will respond to positively. I hoped she’d share my love for horses. She does and I could see it  from the very first session. Her hippotherapy sessions have helped her thrive. She’s excited to go to see the horses, loves her OTA and volunteers she works with each time. She also enjoys her time at the barn. I love going with her too.

As for my dream of getting back in the saddle, I finally started riding again and I ride with a trainer a few times a month. It’s my therapy hour, too.

Is your child in hippotherapy? Would love to learn how it has helped.

2 thoughts on “Hippotherapy for Kids with Disabilities

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