What Is Equine Therapy?

Animal therapy, sometimes known as pet therapy, is a treatment method that uses animals to help people recover from or manage a wide array of health problems. Humans have a special connection with animals, and interaction can greatly boost health outcomes.

This is the case with equine assisted therapy, which uses horses to aid in the treatment and management of health issues. Equine-assisted therapy can assist people with both physical and mental concerns, and improves the balance, strength, language, and sensory regulation of those with autism and other conditions. The emotional bond, nurturing, and gentle connection that takes place among riders of every type and their horses leads to continual growth and healing.

How Equine Therapy Can Help

With its impressive range of benefits, equine assisted therapy provides a broad range of support for people with disabilities. Here are some of the ways it works as disability therapy.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy “helps to improve or restore mobility, relieve pain and reduce the need for surgery and prescription drugs.” It’s accomplished through the use of therapeutic physical training, activities, or stimulation. Hippotherapy—a form of equine-assisted therapy—uses horse riding to provide that physical movement.

Horses are especially suited to this task because their natural gait provides a lot of sensory input for riders. Just 15-25 minutes of hippotherapy can equate to 1,500-2,500 neuromotor inputs to the patient’s brain!

Occupational Therapy

While physical therapy focuses on physicality, occupational therapy goes beyond that to target the following areas:

  • fine motor skills (small-muscle movements made with the hands, fingers, and toes, such as grasping)
  • visual-perceptual skills
  • cognitive (thinking) skills
  • sensory-processing problems

A study of the effects of equine-assisted occupational therapy on kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) found that “all children made significant improvements, as indicated by an increased proportion of time engaged in activities during equine-assisted occupational therapy sessions compared with baseline.” Horse riding and associated activities like grooming, feeding, saddling, playing games, and more can be excellent forms of therapy for people of all ages.

Emotional Support

Finally, equine-assisted therapy has the additional benefit of providing emotional support for people with disabilities. Studies have shown that it produces promising results for mental health, and promotes positive behaviors while reducing negative ones.

Equine-assisted therapy is a powerful tool to help people with disabilities, and many other groups as well! With physical, cognitive, and emotional benefits, it’s a well-rounded and supremely enjoyable avenue for healing, growth, and life change.

Here at HippoTherapy Helps, we’re changing the lives of people with special needs through hippotherapy! We run an online hub for all things hippotherapy, and provide funding to raise awareness and increase access to therapeutic treatment. Through the HippoTherapy House, we will offer an adult autism assisted living facility nestled in a therapeutic equine community. 

You can learn more about what we do and how we support autism awareness, or join our community now to find your tribe. We’d love to have you! Sponsor a ride or make a donation to change someone’s life today!