Hippotherapy versus Equine Therapy: Benefits and Differences
Both hippotherapy and equine therapy use the horse to carry out activities with people and obtain different benefits.
Anyone who has been in contact with horses knows the enormous benefits these animals can bring us; these two disciplines have managed to professionalize this work to obtain results impossible to imagine with other therapies.
Let’s learn more about how horses can help us to repair numerous and very different ailments.
Hippotherapy versus Equine Therapy
In this article, we will look at the difference between these two therapies. Hippotherapy is practised with people with physical or psychological conditions under a diagnosis and accompanied by a therapist to pursue specific objectives. Equine therapy can be focused on the person learning to ride and at the same time as getting the maximum benefits from being in contact with the horse.
Hippotherapy is a speciality of kinesiotherapy, which studies the body’s movement, anatomy, and biomechanics. It is used to treat patients with physical movement difficulties of neurological origin.
Currently, hippotherapy is indicated for physical conditions such as cerebral palsy or spinal cord injuries and psychological disorders such as autism or anxiety. Its effects are based on physical movement, the emotional connection with the horse, and contact with nature. Likewise, this therapy is not recommended in cases of epilepsy, dizziness, or fear of the horse.
The therapy consists of sessions in which activities such as greeting the horse, riding it alone or accompanied by the therapist, or by offering a reward, are used to achieve a series of previously set objectives such as creating a bond, increased attention, or physical improvements.
“Equine therapy was born in Classical Greece, since it was already advised to ride a horse to prevent and cure various ailments of the body and mind” – says Nellie Burges, an essay writer and horse explorer. We can find different variants within equine therapy, such as pedagogical riding and adapted riding.
Pedagogical equitation seeks that the person learns to ride and develop a bond of affection towards the horse.
On the other hand, adapted riding is oriented to people who practice riding as a sport but need adaptations to get on the horse or while riding due to their physical or psychological conditions. Social equine therapy is also distinguished as that therapy that focuses on affectivity.
Among the physical benefits of equine therapy are muscle development, increased strength, endurance, balance, and coordination. Regarding the psychological benefits, it allows the association of physical sensations with new psychological reactions.
Why is contact with horses so beneficial?
The first and most basic reason lies in the same movement performed by the horse. The horse transmits signals similar to human anterior-posterior (up and down), craniocaudal (forward and backward), and latero-medial (sideways) movement.
In addition, it transmits rhythmic impulses to the pelvic girdle, spine, and lower limbs, causing the patient’s trunk to balance.
On the other hand, the horse, which has an average temperature of 38.5º C, transmits its heat, causing the musculature to warm up, increasing blood flow, and stimulating the patient.
Being in contact with the horse increases the attention and motivation to perform these exercises due to the emotional relationship established with the animal and the desire to communicate with him.
Almost all these sensations are related to the psycho-affective area and cognitive stimulation and expressiveness.
From these therapies, we can find benefits such as the development of communication, increased attention, facing personal fears, increased self-confidence, decreased aggressive impulse, increased responsibility, stabilization of the trunk, improved balance, increased coordination, and increased muscle strength, among others.
The horse is the animal chosen to realize these therapies because it is a calm and large animal, which makes it necessary to trust it to approach and ride.
Progressing in this approach improves the patient’s self-esteem, security, self-control, and communication… it also helps to increase attention while exercising the body and developing affective bonds with the horse.