Hippotherapy Treatment For Developmental Delays

Hippotherapy – Developmental Delay Treatment
Complied by Bettie Antrim

Introduction: After reading Temple Grandin’s book Animals in Translation, I felt it was important to share how being with animals, and in Grandin’s case being with horses can help people with developmental delays get therapy and learn while also having a great time. Animals in Translation is an incredible book that gives fascinating insights into an autistic person’s mind. http://www.grandin.com/inc/animals.in.translation.html

Hippotherapy uses horses a treatment for physical, occupational, and speech therapy. (Hippo is Greek for horse.)Therapists do not teach people with developmental delays how to ride horses, but just get the rider to concentrate on the repetition of movements in a horses body.

The therapist guides the horse’s movements to gradually allow for more sensory input to the rider. Basically the horse is giving the client the sensory output through his body movement and the rider needs to respond to that using her muscles, brain and coordination. The therapist can modify how the rider is responding to the horse and can change the horse’s movements as needed. In this way, the rider learns how to gain control of her body.

Not only are there physical benefits, but emotional and mental benefits as well. Special needs children and adults feel more confident and happier. They are able to relate to living animal in a different way than they ever have before. In the words of one mother of a child who has special needs, “He realizes it's something he can do that is something sort of normal.”

The American Hippotherapy Association has been in the U.S. for over 20 years. All therapists must be certified.


McGraw, Eliza. “More than Just Horseplay”, The Washington Post, Tuesday, July 17, 2007; HE01.