Hippotherapy in Occupational Therapy Practice

Pragashnie Govender, Carol Barlow, Sameera Ballim


Background: There has recently been renewed interest in hippotherapy, which can be a strategy of choice within therapy programmes
involving the use of a horse. In this study, the authors endeavoured to explore the experiences and perceptions of occupational therapists
in the use of hippotherapy as a therapeutic intervention strategy.
Methods: A quantitative descriptive study design was selected utilising an online questionnaire. Two hundred and thirty seven
therapists were purposively sampled with data being obtained from 53 respondents. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics.
Results: The majority of respondents (n=39 i.e. 76.3%) indicated awareness of hippotherapy, with a number of the respondents
indicating exposure to hippotherapy during their studies (n=24 i.e. 46.2%). Only six of the respondents were currently using hippotherapy,
either directly or through referrals. It is significant to note that out of the 47 of the respondents who were not currently using hippotherapy,
42 respondents indicated that they would consider using it in the future.
Conclusion: The high percentage of respondents interested in this therapeutic intervention strategy can be linked to their perception
of the benefits of hippotherapy. In particular, all respondents indicated that they viewed hippotherapy as being beneficial for neurological
conditions, as well as for specific aspects of functioning including postural control, mobility, processing and integration, self-confidence,
self-esteem, mood and motivation. Relevant barriers impacting on the use of hippotherapy included limited centres available and lack
of awareness. The majority of respondents currently not using hippotherapy indicated that there was limited training for occupational
therapists. As benefits become validated by future research studies, as well as by limiting barriers to the use of this intervention strategy,
hippotherapy may become a more widespread and acceptable adjunctive therapeutic intervention strategy

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ISSN 0038-2337 (print), ISSN 2310-3833 (online)

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