Hippotherapy: Physical, Cognitive and Psychological Benefits


Dr. Tim Shurtleff, an Occupational Therapist at Washington University, St. Louis, studies the benefits of Hippotherapy and researches its therapeutic properties in the University’s Human Performance Laboratory. His research has determined the following:


Horseback riding is an action reaction basis. In other words, when riding a horse, an influential reaction by the rider is needed in response to the action of the horse. The horse’s movement through its tempo, rhythm, repetition and cadence, influences the neuromuscular development of the rider.

For clients in a Hippotherapy program, riding a horse may become repetitive and even frustrating. However, the multiple mental and physical benefits far outweigh any challenges.

Physical benefits include:

  • Enhancing balance and strength
  • Improved postural symmetry
  • Reduced abnormal muscle tone
  • Control of extremities
  • Trunk core strength
  • Improved gross motor skills
  • Increase Endurance
  • Respiratory control

Cognitive benefits include:

  • Increased ability to express thoughts and needs
  • Improve understanding of visual cues
  • Visual coordination
  • Sensory input
  • Tactile responses
  • Improved attention

Psychological benefits:

  • Improved self-esteem
  • Opportunities for social interactions
  • Increased enthusiasm with treatments
  • Enjoyable interactions with the animal

Read more about Hippotherapy in this blog

Learn more about hOofin’ iT and Oliver Law Firm’s Kids Foundation

Information: Hippotherapy by Adam K at GT Independence. www.gtindependence.com. Chart information: Dr. Tim Shurtleff, Occupational Therapist, Washington University