Hippotherapy is the name given to the development or regaining of the physical structure and functions of the individual by using the back movements of the horse. (Press, 2010)

It is generally used in all disabled individuals. But especially the following disability groups have priority:


  • Cerebral paralysis, 
  • Multiple sclerosis, 
  • Head injuries, 
  • Developmental-neurological disorders, 
  • Post-traumatic neurological conditions, 
  • Autism spectrum disorders, 
  • Learning difficulties, 
  • Sensory processing disorders, 
  • Regulating abnormal muscle tone in arousal and attention problems that may result from limbic system dysfunction
  • Developing physical, sensory, emotional, cognitive, and social skills by supporting the development of postural symmetry, postural control, and balance reactions. (O’Callaghan D, 2010)


Within these purposes, to help the development of correct posture and gait patterns, to increase the mobility of the pelvis and hip area, to increase head and trunk control, to regulate muscle tone and muscle strength, to provide sensory regulation and integrity, to improve cardiovascular system functions, to reduce spasticity and contracture, to control bladder and bowel control. social communication, self-confidence, and empathy skills. (Association., 2010)


During a hippotherapy session, a horse takes an average of 2000 steps and changes movement. This could mean that the client on a horse took 2000 steps or performed 2000 muscle contractions. During the physiotherapy session applied in the salon, the physiotherapist can manually make 50-60 pelvic movements in an average balance ball or swing. The increased number of repetitions during hippotherapy is one of the most important parameters that support the development of static-dynamic balance, weight transfer, motor planning, gross and fine motor skills in line with the individual's motor learning principles. (Zadnikar M, 2011)


In addition, the motivation structure of the horse, the level of participation in the game are very important for the children to gain the developmental stages; In addition to increased functionality in adults, it affects the development of self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-confidence more than studies conducted in clinics. Ball, ring, rope, bucket, mirror, etc. used during horseback riding. The functionality level of the individual can be increased with materials. In addition, participating in horse care activities such as grooming and feeding before and after the session allows the individual to develop their skills and connect with them. The use and arrangement of auxiliary devices necessary for the individual to be able to care for the horse is an important method to increase the level of functionality. (Zadnikar M, 2011)



Also, hippotherapy is an excellent activity used in the evaluation and treatment of sensory processing skills. Hippotherapy, which provides robust sensory input to the vestibular, tactile, visual, and auditory systems, is used to provide sensory modulation of the individual and to reveal functional activity. (Fry NE. Equine-Assisted Therapy: An overview. In Biotherapy History, Principles and Practice., 2013)


Author:Muhammet Karmış - Physical Therapist

Volunteer Translator: Şule Beldağlı





1-Fine AH. Handbook on animal-assisted therapy: Theoretical foundations and guidelines for practice. Academic Press;2010.

2-Fine A, O’Callaghan D, Chandler C, Schaffer K, Pichot T, Gimeno J. Application of animal-assisted interventions in counseling settings: An overview of alternatives. Handbook on animal-assisted therapy: Theoretical foundations and sidelines for practice;193-222,2010.

3-American Hippotherapy Association Hippotherapy as a treatment strategy;2010.

4-Zadnikar M, Kastrin A. Effects of hippotherapy and therapeutic horseback riding on postural control or balance in children with cerebral pasy:a metaanalysis.Dev Med Child Nerol 2011;53(8):684-691)

5-Fry NE.Equine-Assisted Therapy: An overview.In Biotherapy History,Principles and Practice.Springer Netherlands;255-284,2013.