Hippotherapy and the Benefits to

..” And talking “with a walker or holding someones hands.” (Scott, 2006) the benefits to the child were not only physical but were also related to cognitive development as following the second session the child while sitting on his shower stool upon beginning to sway grabbed hold of the shower seat and informed his mother “I hold on.” (Scott, 2006)

This is important because as explained by Scott (2006) during the therapy session the child is given reins to hold and while the child is not actually controlling the horse, the child believes that they are in control of the horse and the theoretical framework upon which the use of Hippotherapy as a therapeutic tool is that “making a huge magnificent animal do his bidding gives the rider a feeling of control which may be lacking in other aspects of his life.” (Scott, 2006)


The study reported by Scott (2006) clearly indicated that the benefits of Hippotherapy are related to physical, cognitive, and social-emotional benefits. For example, the young boy sitting on the shower seat and stating he would hold on indicated that he understood that he could not balance on his own but that he could however, by holding on establish a sense of balance enabling him to sit without support and without falling off of the shower stool.

The implications are clear that Hippotherapy provides not only physical benefits but as well provide cognitive learning benefits. Finally, the benefits are clearly social-emotional in nature because this young child who was enabled to walk through Hippotherapy is sure to have a much healthier and active social-emotional experience than were he still unable to walk or sit without support. Furthermore, the sense of self-confidence that the child gains in their feeling of being in control of the horse results in empowering the child and drives the improvement of the childs physical abilities.


The Horse & Human Research Foundation reported in its 2008 Edition #1 entitled: “Benefits of Hippotherapy Proven by Washington University Research Team” that a breakthrough study on the therapeutic impact of equine therapy for children with cerebral palsy” stated findings that hippotherapy “…

the use of the rhythmic movement of a horse to effect therapeutic gains, improves both head and trunk stability and upper extremity function in children with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy.” (H & H. Research Foundation, 2008)

The study reported was a year-long study that focused on “measuring stability changes in children with cerebral palsy after 1 week of hippotherapy treatments.” (H & H. Research Foundation, 2008) a “motorized barrel and Video Motion Capture” were used in measuring the changes in motor control after Hippotherapy sessions. Findings in this study include that the benefits of Hippotherapy remained with the children “for several months after their riding sessions had stopped.” (H & H. Research Foundation, 2008) Additionally stated in the report of the study conducted by the Horse & Human Foundation (2008) is the report of the research team for plans to follow up the study through conducting a “randomized clinical trial (RCT) of hippotherapy.” (H & H. Research Foundation, 2008)


The benefit of Hippotherapy for special needs children is clear and includes physical benefits as well as cognitive and social-emotional benefits. The child is not only enabled in their physical activities, but as well advance in cognition and on a social-emotional level due to having engaged in Hippotherapy. It is like that Hippotherapy will gain in use as a therapeutic tool in the future.


Gonzalez, Patricia (nd) Hippotherapy Offers Tremendous Benefits to Kids with Special Needs. American Hippotherapy Association. Online available at http://www.steppingstonestocommunication.com/docs/CPM.pdf

McGraw, Eliza (2007) More Than Just Horseplay. Washington Post, 17 July 2007. Online available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/13/AR2007071301839.html

Denton, Scott N. (2006) Special Needs, Special Horses: A Guide to the Benefits of Therapeutic Riding. University of Texas Press. in: Review of Books, Software and Multimedia. Physical Therapy Journal Vol. 86, No. 4.

Scott, Naomi (2005) Special Needs,.


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