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Equitherapy Explained

Equitherapy is an enjoyable form of outdoor therapy which takes place whilst the child is riding the horse. It involves doing activities whilst the horse is walking. These activities stimulate the brain as well as the body. The child is engaged in an environment which provides enjoyment and freedom of expression.


More about Equitherapy

The uniqueness lies in the three-dimensional movement of the horse which stimulates the vestibular system. The vestibular system is a small organ situated in the inner ear. Not only is it responsible for balance but assists in processing information received from within the body (from muscle, tissue and ligaments) and from sensory information from outside the body. Further balance and vision are linked with the result that eye-muscle movement and co-ordination improves. This will influence the child’s reading ability.

Equitherapy is a sensory experience as smell, sound and feeling are stimulated. When there is a gap in the processing of sensory information, a child might not give the correct response to stimuli e.g. the child might complain about being too hot or too cold, or labels in clothing irritate excessively.

During equitherapy the child has to respond to instructions and the horse’s discipline. The child is motivated to participate and self-confidence is achieved when he experiences success. The child’s improved self-esteem and confidence is transferred to everyday activities and in turn leads to improved behaviour.

Integration of the brain hemispheres are involved in this form of therapy. Therefore a noticeable improvement will be seen in the development of his learning capabilities. A further outcome will be better concentration.

Equitherapy makes use of the whole body. Muscle tone is increased, trunk rotation and posture is improved. Joint mobility and range of motion is increased.

Equitherapy Benefits

The primary goal of equitherapy is to integrate a medically, physically or mentally compromised child into society (Engel, 1992). Learning disabilities as well as emotional and behavioural problems can be addressed. Apart from acquiring basic horse riding skills, various goals can be achieved through this unique form of therapy:

  • Improvement of muscle tone (high muscle tone decreases and low muscle tone increases)
  • Balance, trunk rotation and posture is improved
  • Joint mobility & range of movement is increased
  • Tactile System is stimulated
  • Spatial perception & body awareness is improved
  • Eye muscle movement & co-ordination improves
  • Integration of left & right brain hemispheres
  • Sensory stimulation takes place
  • Attention span & concentration is improved
  • Increased motivation & self-confidence is achieved
  • Activity levels are normalised (hyperactive behaviour tends to decrease)