Riding Horses for Speech Therapy?
For severe developmental issues, the use of horses for speech therapy is making a comeback. Overall, Hippotherapy has remained a tried and true form of therapy for many developmental issues, and utilizing it for speech therapy is just one more tool for the pathologist to use. Don’t worry; you won’t be required to get licensed for hippotherapy, and you can easily team up with a licensed occupational or physical therapist who physically meets with your client even though you provide your services remotely.
Hippotherapy is often confused for training children and adults to ride a horse. Clients aren’t immediately in a saddle or have to hold the reins right away. Some gradually grow into using the saddle, but it’s after some progress has been made. The point of the therapy is to use the horse’s movements to stimulate the brain and encourage positive speech progress. In a 20-minute session, about 3,000 muscles are used, and that creates plenty of opportunity for new motor pathways for speech development. The horse’s movements are also variable, repetitive, and rhythmic. The benefits of equine movement can last for hours to days after an easy 20-minute session!
The horse’s gait mimics the pattern of the human pelvis when we walk. Because of this, it improves our core and trunk control. Stability and breath control also improve as our core improves. When the horse moves, the patient experiences:
- Proprioceptive input (sensations from muscles, joints, and connective tissue)
- Vestibular input (sense of movement in inner ear)
- Visual flow
- Olfactory input
- Tactile input
- Auditory input
A terrific addition is the fact that the horse is warm and is often pleasing to the client. None of these things can be reproduced in a clinic setting. The horse provides it all at one time!
This therapy is also perfect for mental reasons as well. Many patients who are in speech therapy sessions a few times a week, experience some sort of burnout. With a change of scenery, one can take a break from the usual and enjoy something that feels a bit more special. Patients will often not even realize they are in a therapy session! Working with animals also brings in an element of care that we may not see as often in a clinical scenario. Most patients respond well to an animal, and therapy horses are sweet and gentle. Many patients just feel good spending time with the horses.
The therapy is helpful for many different speech development issues, including:
- Receptive language deficits and delays
- Oral motor delays
- Stuttering and fluency disorders
- Articulation deficits and delays
- Expressing language deficits and delays
- Pragmatic language deficits and delays
If you haven’t tried using hippotherapy with your clients just yet, now is the time to reconsider and evaluate whether they are a perfect candidate. It may be just what they need to see some serious breakthroughs!
Effective therapy requires innovation and personalization. If you love to innovate, why not try teletherapy? Check out our latest remote therapy jobs right here to take the next step.