Hippos is the Greek word for horse and therefore, hippotherapy, as known as equine therapy, is the therapeutic use of horses. It is one-on-one physiotherapy treatment with and on the horse for children and adults with neurological and muscular disorders. Physical therapists believed that the horse’s movement created neurological changes that helped improve a person’s postural control, strength, and coordination. Hippotherapy is suitable for the children with autism as it allows them to experience many different types of beneficial sensory stimulation — muscles and joints receive deep pressure stimulation from bouncing and holding positions (like kneeling or standing on the horse), and the brain receives vestibular stimulation (to sense movement and balance) as the horse moves (in circles, up and down hills) and changes speeds. Also, because a horse walks with a gait that’s similar to the human gait — variable, rhythmic, and repetitive — a child who has never walked or who has an abnormal gait can sit on a horse and experience what “normal” feels like. The therapist is always in control of the horse’s movement, choosing activities that will help achieve specific outcomes. The dynamic movement of the horse combined with the dynamic environment leads to functional change.
2016年儿科物理与职业治疗杂志的一项研究发现，“训练有素的治疗师提供的马术治疗在10周后可以改善身体功能和大肌肉和小肌肉活动的表现。通过应用不同的图案组合，如圆形，蛇形和螺旋形; 步态和速度，如慢走，快走和小跑; 坐姿向前，坐在侧身，双手和膝盖，面朝下站立，训练有素的治疗师能够准确地为每个孩子提供最大的感受和神经输入。 通过马术治疗可以获得许多其它优势，例如放松紧绷的肌肉，提高肌肉力量，锐化手部和/或眼部协调，获得自信等等。