Equine (horse-assisted) therapy benefits many, including children with autism or Asperger's Syndrome

Hippotherapy, also known as equine or horse-assisted therapy, is a physical, occupational and speech therapy treatment strategy that utilizes the movement and other characteristics of horses. Taken from the Greek word hippos - meaning horse - the term literally means “treatment with the help of the horse.” This horse-assisted therapy is used at Nature's Edge as part of an integrated treatment program for many disorders, and is especially beneficial for children and young people with autism and/or Asperger's Syndrome.

In hippotherapy, the patient engages in activities on the horse that are enjoyable and challenging.  The therapist addresses the specific functional goals of the patient by having him or her ride in different positions such as sitting or laying forwards, backwards or sideways; standing in the stirrups; or riding without using the hands.  The patient may also be asked to stretch, reach or play games while on the horse.  The therapist continuously analyzes the patient’s response and adjusts the horse’s movement accordingly for optimum treatment benefits.

Safety is of primary importance.  In addition to the hippotherapy-credentialed therapist, a specially-trained handler leads the horse during the treatment session, and sidewalkers on each side of the horse ensure the patient’s safety.

The horses used in equine therapy are also specially selected and trained.  At Nature’s Edge we have a variety of horses available, which enables us to match each patient with an appropriate horse in terms of size, pace, gait and character.

Typical Impairments Addressed by Equine/Horse-Assisted Therapy 

Impairments that may be modified with equine therapy include:

  • Abnormal tone
  • Impaired balance responses
  • Impaired coordination
  • Impaired communication
  • Impaired cognitive function
  • Impaired sensory processing function
  • Postural asymmetry
  • Poor postural control
  • Decreased mobility

Who May Benefit from Equine Therapy?

Common medical conditions for which equine therapy may be used include:

  • Girl on horse during hippotherapy sessionAutism spectrum disorders
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Stroke
  • Developmental delay
  • Down syndrome
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Learning or language disabilities

However, horse-assisted therapy is not for every patient.  Our specially-trained therapists evaluate each potential patient on an individual basis.

Please contact us with any questions or concerns...we'd love to talk to you about how equine (horse-assisted) therapy may be beneficial to your loved one!