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Therapeutic Horseback Riding, Hippotherapy, and How Equine Therapy is Helpful in Autism

Hippotherapy and autism

Children and young adults on the autism spectrum all have an innate need for sensory stimulation. Some cannot handle any type of touch or noise, where others benefit from deep pressure and certain variations of loud music. Use of sensory toys, fidget objects, and other tools to allow sensory input are always helpful. But we can take it further.


We have all heard about therapy dogs, and how impressive their help has been. I must agree that being around animals, nature, and music can help center anyone's world tremendously; especially those with Autism. But what about horses? Horses may seem a bit intimidating at first, however, they each have their own loving personality, as a puppy would.

Horses offer a healing power, as explained here by the NYT. They allow a person who has a disability, whether physical or developmental, feel as if they are able to overcome obstacles while achieving goals, and making memories along the way.

My daughter was born with a rare brain disorder, and she was also diagnosed on the autism spectrum. I can attest to the immense amount of benefit equestrian therapy has offered her. Over the years it has only shown positive effects to her motor, emotional, and sensory skills.

Here is a list of exactly what you will see improvement in once therapy has begun:

  • Posture
  • Core strength/muscle strength
  • Fine motor skills
  • Sensory stimulation
  • Speech
  • Self-esteem
  • Behavior modification
  • Socialization
  • Anxiety- calming
  • Focus

I recently read this article on TheraBlog about Hippotherapy, which is slightly different from therapeutic riding. In therapeutic riding the person is actually riding, learning to give cues, holding the reigns and steering.

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Hippo is derived from the Greek word which means horse. Hippotherapy is geared towards younger children and is only provided through Occupational, Physical, or Speech therapy. It offers facilitating certain tpositions on the horse, strengthening exercises, and obtaining goals put in place by the therapist.

The Cost of Hippo and Equine Therapies

While either can be costly, some places offer it for free if you're willing to get on the waiting list. You will find grants are available if you search for them, and some insurance companies even cover these services; although it varies state to state. From personal experience, I do know the insurance companies require a prescription which specifies an Autism diagnosis.

Details and Positive Changes After These Therapies

As seen in this previous article by eMaxHealth.com it lays out the details of what you can expect from these therapies.

After seeing the positive changes in my daughter I believe you too would see the benefit that Equine or Hippotherapy can offer. You'll also find that you'll not only be building a way to improve daily life skills, but also memorable moments that will last a lifetime.