Skip to content


Top 7 Benefits of Hippotherapy for Your Wellness

May 19, 2023 | Britnie Turner

Hippotherapy is a one-of-a-kind therapy tool that’s improving health and well-being across the globe; using the movement of a horse, hippotherapy enhances the quality of life of individuals with a range of physical, emotional, and neurological issues. It can also shorten the recovery time for people who have suffered an injury.

Perhaps the best part about hippotherapy is that this therapy type can provide a consoling and sensory-rich experience that may help reduce anxiety and overall stress levels. People who have suffered a traumatic experience or who simply want to reconnect with nature—and themselves—can experience amazing gains with this unique treatment modality.

1. Hippotherapy Improves Muscle Tone and Balance

Hippotherapy, when practiced regularly as part of an occupational or physical therapy treatment plan, can increase muscle strength, coordination, and postural control among riders. This occurs through the use of a horse’s natural gait—their trot, gallop, or canter—to help a rider build mobility skills, gross motor skills, and balance. 

Hippotherapy can be particularly beneficial for individuals who suffer from neurodegenerative disorders such as multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy, as therapeutic riding can significantly improve gross motor function in these individuals.

Hippotherapy Improves Muscle Tone and Balance

2. Hippotherapy Can Benefit Children with Autism

Hippotherapy and therapeutic riding can also be excellent choices for nonverbal individuals and those diagnosed with autism. Studies demonstrate that therapeutic horseback riding, which is similar to hippotherapy, can be used as part of a speech therapy program to greatly enhance social skills and communication skills in nonverbal children. 

Additionally, nonverbal children can benefit from the social interaction they experience with a horse. This unique horse-to-human relationship can promote self-confidence, trust, and improved sensory responsiveness among nonverbal children and children with autism.

hippotherapy benefit 2 - quicker injury recovery time

3. Hippotherapy Shortens Recovery Time After An Injury

When an individual engages in hippotherapy, they respond to the rhythmic gait of a horse’s movement automatically. This means that during a hippotherapy session, certain misused or weak muscle groups will be naturally activated without much deliberation from the rider. 

As a result, participants with mild to moderate injuries (especially a head, back, or spinal cord injury) can expect to see shortened recovery times. What’s more, hippotherapy and equine movement can challenge an individual with an injury to focus on the present and have confidence that their body has the capability to heal itself. 

horse in ocean water

4. Hippotherapy Reduces Stress 

Through careful guidance from trained therapists, individuals can look forward to a sensory-rich, exciting, and fun experience when participating in hippotherapy. Not only have multiple studies shown that working with a horse can reduce anxiety, but therapeutic riding (which involves being in tune with a horse’s movement) can have a number of psychological benefits. 

In a hippotherapy session, the horse acts as a source of physical medicine to reduce everyday stress levels. Additionally, hippotherapy improves circulation and respiration in the body, which can translate to a quieter and more relaxed mental state overall. 

Hippotherapy Reduces Stress

5. Hippotherapy Helps with PTSD 

Hippotherapy and equine movement can address a range of physical disabilities. At the same time, hippotherapy can also be an effective treatment for psychiatric disorders. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects around 5 out of every 100 adults in the U.S. and causes debilitating symptoms like traumatic flashbacks, nightmares, and heightened reactivity to certain stimuli.

In a small study involving a group of military veterans, just three weeks of therapeutic riding produced a significant decrease in PTSD symptoms among riders. Equine therapy benefits also include an improvement in social communication skills and building trust. With these statistics in mind, hippotherapy and horseback riding therapy could be effective therapeutic interventions for individuals suffering from PTSD. 

Hippotherapy Helps with PTSD

6. Therapeutic Riding Fosters a Better Connection with Nature

People who participate in hippotherapy will tell you that forming a bond with a horse can serve as a way to reconnect with nature and the great outdoors. Generally, hippotherapy is carried out by trained and qualified therapists who guide the participant through a series of distinct equine movements. Some of these equine movements and specific riding skills may include: 

Sitting astride a horse. When an individual is astride a horse, they have one leg on each side of the horse. When the horse is in motion, the horse’s pelvis mimics the participant’s pelvis and strengthens functional physical skills such as walking, moving forward and backward, or moving from side to side. 

Lying over the horse. When an individual lays supine over the rump of a horse, the horse’s movements mobilize the spine and strengthen the shoulder girdle.

Sitting backward or sideways on the horse. When an individual sits sideways on a horse, it can help with the lateral tilting of the pelvis. Sitting backward on a horse can aid in proper balance and develop weight-bearing skills. 

Ultimately, all these equine movements provide a multi-sensory experience that helps to engage sensory, neuromotor, and cognitive systems. At the same time, the individual can benefit from the deep connection they form with a horse. Finally, the experience of being outdoors and surrounded by nature offers individuals a sense of calm and emotional tranquility. 

7. Hippotherapy Is Fun!

Aside from its obvious physical and emotional benefits, hippotherapy is simply a fun way to get active! Anyone, of any age, can participate in hippotherapy year-round in a variety of clinical and non-clinical settings. 

These days, you can experience hippotherapy in settings as diverse as a speech pathology clinic or a luxury wellness retreat that’s tapping into the healing potential of equine-assisted therapies for guests. 

However an individual decides to participate in hippotherapy, they can anticipate a fun and therapeutic experience that ignites all of the senses and increases their feelings of well-being and self-esteem.

Hippotherapy Can Help You to Become Your Best Self

The verdict is in: The physical benefits that come from hippotherapy are undeniable. Yet, the benefits of participating in hippotherapy go way beyond its physical rewards, with numerous benefits for individuals seeking psychological and emotional rehabilitation as well.

All in all, hippotherapy is a holistic and fun activity that can help individuals harness their inner strength and heal in mind, body, and soul. We encourage you to try it out for yourself!