By Barbara Smith
Horses are essential in hippotherapy, a form of neuromuscular therapy that can improve the posture and coordination of a child with disabilities.
Horses are special animals and their healing powers have been recognized for thousands of years. Hippos is the Greek word for horse and hippotherapy means the therapeutic use of horses. But hippotherapy shouldn’t be confused with therapeutic riding — hippotherapy is a medically based treatment tool, whereas therapeutic riding involves teaching people with disabilities equestrian skills. Although Hippocrates first mentioned using horses therapeutically in his ancient Greek writings around 400 B.C., it wasn’t until the 1960s that physical therapists (PTs) in Europe began using horses to help patients with neuromuscular disorders such as cerebral palsy or brain injury. Physical therapists believed that the horse’s movement created neurological changes that helped improve a person’s postural control, strength, and coordination.