Critter Alley

Critter Alley

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Hippotherapist

Hippotherapy is a fancy word for therapy provided through use of a horse. You've probably heard of such programs provided to physically disabled, emotionally disturbed, or otherwise troubled people. Perhaps you even have a program in your area.

It takes a special horse to be part of such a program. They can't be too old or too young, and they must be healthy. They need a calm, gentle disposition, unfazed by a variety of riders, and different handlers. They must be able to accept the devices used to assist those who are physically disabled. And a smooth gait is important. Of course, an affection for humans helps, too. What better incentive to work hard could there be than the feeling of freedom that comes from being on a horse? And the bond that develops between horse and rider is visible.

In our area, Therapeutic Horsemanship provides that much needed service. They're licensed by the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) and have offered programs since 1975. Check them out at

People and animals. There's no limit to what they can do together.


zeldadg said...

Yeah, I've heard about this. Awesome idea. There's one out here in Wentzville, isn't there?

This would make a great NPR story. You should pitch it to Morning Edition or All Things Considered. I'd love to hear more about it.

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful idea! There are similar schemes in Britain and I recently saw a TV show segment about one such scheme. They interviewed a boy of 12 who is disabled and is taken riding once a week. He loves his pony and says he is his best friend. He said his life was very hard in many ways, but he got through all his treatments and hard times by clinging on to the thought that he had his ride to look forward to every week. Wonderful!

barbara said...

Actually hippotherapy involves using the horse as a treatment tool. It is only done by a registered occupational,phyyscial or speech therapist. Therapists use the movement of the horse to work on therapeutic goals such as improving balance or coordination. Therapeutic riding on the other hand teaches people with disabilities how to ride.
Barbara Smith OTR/L

Leona said...

I haven't heard of this..what a neat idea and bears more investigating. Your blogs are always so informative, I learn lots over here. Thank you, Pat!

The Word Place said...

I've read about these programs. Being a former special ed teacher, I'm in favor of whatever works for students who need something more than a classroom or traditional therapy programs. Bravo to these wonderful equines and their handlers!

Winslow Therapeutic Riding said...

Therapeutic Horseback Riding is an amazing therapy for children and adults with special needs. Our center is now working on Winslow Horses for Heroes program where we will be giving one-on-one and group therapy to veterans! Thank you Pat for shedding the light and spreading the word on therapeutic riding!