Treatments & Therapies

Hippotherapy – treatment, effect and risks


Horses have always been an important partner of man. You are even able to help him with certain diseases. Or at least to have a positive influence on the course of the disease. Especially people with neurological disabilities can benefit from therapeutic riding. One form of therapeutic horseback riding is hippotherapy .

What is hippotherapy?

Hippotherapy is becoming increasingly popular these days. It is a form of therapeutic horseback riding that uses specially trained horses or ponies. Hippotherapy is a specialist area of ​​therapeutic horseback riding, as is remedial support with horses and horseback riding as a sport for people with disabilities.

In hippotherapy, however, the focus is on the patient affected by neurological movement disorders. Many medical successes have already been achieved in this way. Whether children, adults or seniors: Hippotherapy is suitable for all age groups. It can be seen as a form of physiotherapy to train posture. The patient sits on horseback and is accompanied by a therapist. The patient himself has no influence on the horse.

Function, effect & goals

Hippotherapy is used for people with neurological diseases that result in certain movement disorders. These include both multiple sclerosis and ataxia (impaired movement coordination) and craniocerebral trauma .

Hippotherapy also promises good treatment success in the case of non-neurological damage to the musculoskeletal system. Patients with damage to their limbs (dysmelia) and a resulting curvature of the body learn during therapy to strengthen their muscles where they are too weak. Overworked muscles, on the other hand, learn to let go. A balance is restored. In this way, the patient’s posture can be corrected and joint misalignments can be prevented. The muscle tension normalizes. In practice, therapeutic horseback riding means that the patient sits passively on horseback.

The therapist guides the patient. In the gait walk, the horse now transmits its three-dimensional vibrations to the human being. In this way, the patient should learn to consciously perceive these vibrations in the pelvis and to follow these movements. There are about 100 vibration impulses that the horse transmits to the human in one minute. In this way, the patient trains not only his posture and balance but also a healthy body feeling. In many cases, this improves the neurological movement disorders. In addition, the entire perception system of the patient is trained in hippotherapy. For example, people with hemiparesis can regain a feeling for the middle of their body.

The mode of action of therapeutic horseback riding is that the patient’s body tries to readjust itself to the vibrations of the moving horse. All axes of movement are used and used to improve the motor skills of the patient. In this way, a positive influence is exerted on the course of the respective disease.

Another advantage of hippotherapy is that the therapist gains access to the patient via the horse’s path and can therefore work better with him. The inclusion of this sensitive animal in the healing process of humans also has the positive effect that the patient’s dissatisfaction with therapy, which often occurs, decreases or disappears entirely. This improves the chances of success, because the patient opens up more to the therapist.

Risks, side effects & dangers

Hippotherapy can bring about significant improvements in the clinical picture of the patient in many neurologically caused or other movement disorders.

On the other hand, there are also diseases in which hippotherapy does more harm than good. For this reason, the therapy is not considered suitable for people with inflammation of the spine or people with an active episode of multiple sclerosis. In addition, it should not be used on people with seizure disorders that are poorly controlled with medication, since this form of therapy carries a high risk of injury due to the height of the fall from the horse. In addition, patients with an increased risk of thrombosis or embolismRefrain from this treatment method. Since a fall from the horse’s back cannot be completely ruled out, hippotherapy should not be considered as a treatment if the person concerned also suffers from the hemophilia .

Of course, people with an allergy to horse hair do not benefit from therapy on horseback either. This also applies to those affected by other forms of allergies. People who have extreme reactions to dust, hay and other animal hair with hay fever , coughing or asthma will not feel comfortable around horses. Furthermore, hippotherapy is not recommended if a person is suffering from acute inflammatory processes, regardless of their origin, or from pronounced arteriosclerosis . Furthermore, the form of therapy is unsuitable for patients with acute herniated discs , arthrosis of the hip joint or angina pectoris. Such a form of treatment is also not recommended for high blood pressure with a tendency to hypertensive crisis.

Normally, the attending doctor or specialist issues a prescription for the physiotherapeutic method, so that the wrong treatment path cannot actually occur here. This requires a thorough medical examination of the patient in advance so that the respective disease can be diagnosed.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.