Hippotherapy is a form of therapy that uses horses (not hippos!). According to the American Hippotherapy Association:
Hippotherapy is a treatment that uses the multidimensional movement of the horse; from the Greek word “hippos” which means horse. Specially trained physical, occupational and speech therapists use this medical treatment for clients who have movement dysfunction. Historically, the therapeutic benefits of the horse were recognized as early as 460 BC. The use of the horse as therapy evolved throughout Europe, the United States and Canada.
Hippotherapy uses activities on the horse that are meaningful to the client. 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.
Hippotherapy is becoming an increasingly popular therapy option for parents of children with autism. The above video shows one family’s journey with hippotherapy and autism.