Equestrian therapy: an alternative therapeutic resource

More and more people are turning to animals for a different or complementary path to traditional therapy. While it is true that dog assisted therapy is the most accessible, there are other options that are growing thanks to their specific effects.

The horse has made a place for itself in the therapeutic world, and there are plenty of reasons, because both contribute a lot, especially in childhood pathologies. So let’s see like equestrian therapy. Why them and not the others?

    The horse, from Hippocrates to the present day

    Equestrian therapies were not invented today, as Hippocrates explained as in ancient Greece people with incurable diseases have taken horse rides to improve your self-esteem.

    Much progress has been made since then and it is now known that there are mainly three characteristics of this animal that serve as the basis for therapy:

    1. Your body heat

    The horse has a higher body temperature than the human, hence the transmission of this heat helps muscle relaxation and stimulates tactile perception. In addition to the gentle movement of walking which causes what is called the “rocking effect”, it is a sensation which, especially in children, generates safety and a protective space.

    2. Its transmission of rhythmic impulses

    By means of movement the horse it transmits these impulses to the pelvic girdle, spine and limbs of the rider. Thanks to the concept of brain plasticity, it is known that physiological impulses that start in muscle and bone tissue can compensate for damaged neuronal areas by activating new ones. This goal is the same as that sought with physiotherapy, but in this case it is the horse that stimulates.

    3. The locomotion diagram

    A locomotion diagram equivalent to the physiological diagram of the human gait it is very useful in animal therapy.

    This assumption is of great value in patients who do not have the necessary control of the head and trunk, for example in people with cerebral palsy. During the ride the patient walks seated, with the necessary time and practice this pattern can be automated and generate gait improvements.

    On the other hand, feeling attached to the horse and seeing its progress generates confidence in oneself and in the environment, a key element in the therapeutic process.

    How does equine therapy work?

    The benefits of equine therapy they are not obtained solely by contact with animalsIt is necessary to guide and plan the stages of therapy and follow certain processes to achieve the best benefits.

    There are two ways to relate to the horse, so that the patient can tailor the therapy to their needs.

    Hippotherapy

    The patient benefits from the qualities of the horse adapt your body to movements of the animal. In addition to this process, neuromuscular exercises stimulate muscle tone, balance and coordination.

    The therapeutic frame

    This alternative combines learning to drive a therapeutic goal. The goal is to be an active rider, and is achieved by combining training with therapeutic games and neuromuscular and gymnastic exercises.

    It is a global therapy, that is to say it has very diverse therapeutic effects. It acts mainly in the regulation of muscle tone, locomotion, trunk and head stability, psychomotor skills and in building body symmetry. It also promotes sensory integration and the proprioceptive system (perception of posture and of one’s own movements).

    In addition, focus and attention are beneficial during therapy, as well as an increase in self-esteem and self-confidence. It influences both verbal and non-verbal communication; I decreases aggressiveness and encourages values ​​such as cooperation and responsibility.

    There are many clinical pathologies for which this therapy is recommended: cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Down syndrome, scoliosis, low back pain, Parkinson’s, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism … But there are also some. others for which are contraindicated such as hip dysplasia, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy (weakness of muscles) or hemophilia (defective blood clotting)

    A final reflection

    These innovative therapies do not aim to replace conventional treatments, but to offer a complement, that is to say the search for a good teamwork which achieves perfect equipment and improves the patient’s quality of life. Equine therapy is another of the many tools available to psychology and health sciences in general to improve the quality of life of patients.

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