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.
A 2016 study in the Physical & Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics journal found that “Hippotherapy provided by a trained therapist who applies an intense and graded session for 10 weeks can improve body functions and performance of gross motor and fine motor activities. By applying different combinations of patterns like circle, serpentines and spirals; gaits and speeds like slow walk, fast walk and trot; riding postures like sitting facing forward, sitting sideways, on hands and knees, lying face-down and standing, the highly-trained therapists are able to provide precisely the sensory and neurological input each child with benefit from most. Many other advantages can be gained through hippotherapy such as relaxing the tight muscle, improving the muscle strength, sharpening hand or/and eye coordination, gaining self-confident, etc.
Hippos是希腊语中的马，因此，hippotherapy被称为马术治疗，是以马作为治疗用途。它是针对患有神经和肌肉疾病的儿童和成人的一对一疗法。物理治疗师认为，马的动作/移动带来了神经系统的变化，有助于改善一个人的姿势控制，力量和协调能力。马术治疗适合自闭症儿童，因为它能够让他们体验许多不同类型的有益感觉刺激 – 肌肉和关节从弹跳和保持位置，受 到深压力刺激，（如跪或站在马上）。此外，当马移动及改变速度时（在圆圈，上下山中），大脑前庭将受到刺激（感知运动和平衡）。此外，因为一匹马走路的步态类似于人类的步态（变化，节奏和重复性） – 一个从未走路或步态异常的孩子可以坐在马上体验“正常”的感觉。治疗师始终控制着马的运动，选择有助于实现特定结果的活动。马的动态运动与动态环境相结合，带来功能的变化。
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。