Hippotherapy is the use of horseback riding for therapy, and has been practiced for centuries. The first known incidence of hippotherapy was in ancient Greece (AHA). It was later used for soldiers who were injured in battle during and after the World Wars, however using horses as a type of therapy really began in the medical community in 1952; this was the year that Lis Hartel won silver in dressage in the Olympics (USA Today). From that point on, hippotherapy took off as a new therapy for people with disabilities, both mental and physical.
Canada joined in in 1980 with the formation of the Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association, and in the following decade multiple other riding associations were formed. Currently, horses are used all over the world as therapy for people with physical disabilities, and many countries have organizations in charge of certifying hippotherapy teachers. Hippotherapy, the use of horses for physical therapy, was first referenced in writings by Hippocrates in ancient Greece. At this time, Hippocrates wrote that horses were being used for rehabilitating soldiers who had returned from war wounded.
He referenced this use of horse riding around 400BC and called it a form of “natural exercise” (AHA). It is also believed that the Chinese recognized the use of a horse for therapy around this time too (Briscoe). Later, in 1569, Merkurialis mentioned horse riding in his book “The Art of Gymnastics”, which focused on physical therapy as treatment for diseases (AHA). As well, Hippotherapy was written about in France in the 1600s. However, it was not until 1875 that riding was really discovered to be a good therapy not just for physical injuries, but also for neurological disorders (eHow).
Though hippotherapy was not used as much pre-1900s as it is nowadays, people in many 2 different parts of the world were aware of the mental and physical benefits of riding a horse. Once the benefits of hippotherapy became known to doctors and physical therapists, it was used more widely, mostly to treat soldiers coming home injured from war. After the Second World War, soldiers who had lost a leg were taught to ride horses in order to help them relearn their balance, build up their muscles that they would now need because of the missing limb, and also help relieve the depression that may have
come with losing a limb (source). After this was used for the soldiers, doctors began using horses as therapy for children with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder characterized by physical disabilities as well as some impaired cognitive functions. It was in 1952 that hippotherapy really began to take off though, when Lis Hartel won silver in an Olympic dressage competition. This was significant because Hartel had polio at 23, and was rehabilitated by hippotherapy.
Polio can cause varying degrees of paralysis, and while Hartel’s whole body was originally affected, she managed to regain full muscle control everywhere except her arms, hands, and lower legs, as she was paralyzed below the knees. However, this didn’t stop her from winning silver in Olympic dressage twice, first in 1952 and again in 1956. It was in the 1960’s that hippotherapy really began to take off in the Western world, especially in North America.
At this time, hippotherapy centers were being formed throughout Canada, the United States, and Europe (AHA). This was also when the Europeans coined the term “hippotherapy”, which came from the Greek word hippos, meaning horse.
It was in 1964 that the first hippotherapy “Advisory Council” was formed in the United Kingdom, and five years after that The Community Association for Riding 3 for the Disabled, or CARD, was formed in Canada. As well, CARD was formed the same year as the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association, or the NARHA, was founded to be a regulatory body for all equine assisted therapy in Canada and the United States. The NARHA still operates today, but under the name Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International, or PATH International (PATH).
As more associations formed in Europe and North America, the popularity of hippotherapy grew as a type of physical therapy. People were discovering more uses for horses, including the treatment of people with mental disorders, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. In 1980, the Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association, or CANTRA, was formed, and became the regulatory body for all hippotherapy instructors in Canada; to become a certified hippotherapy instructor, you must go through CANTRA’s certification process, including written and in the arena tests (CANTRA).
The last major association to form was the American Hippotherapy Association, or AHA, in 1992 (AHA). All these regulatory bodies have worked since their founding to certify instructors and educate people on what hippotherapy is, and how beneficial it can be to people with disabilities. Nowadays, hippotherapy is used all over the world as treatment for different types of disabilities, and therapists in many countries are promoting hippotherapy as a form of physical therapy. PATH International currently operates in over seventy countries on five continents, indicating that hippotherapy is very widely used (PATH).
In Canada there are over one hundred CANTRA accredited riding centers, including Rainbow Riders here in St. John’s (CANTRA). Hippotherapy use has also advanced since it began in Ancient Greece, now being used as therapy for physical disabilities, 4 mental disabilities, and mental disorders. there have been many studies performed to test the effects of hippotherapy, and most have come to the conclusion that hippotherapy is quite beneficial to the rider no matter the reason for riding. 5 Annotated.
Bibliography About CANTRA. Canadian Therapeutic Rising Association. Web. 6 April 2014. Bowling, Allen.Neurology Care. Colorado Neurological Institute, 2012. Web. 2 April 2014. Briscoe, Alexa. Origins of Therapeutic Riding. Circle of Hope. n. d.. Web. 3 April 2014. Hippocrates. Hippocratic Writings. City of Publication: Penguin UK, 2005. Print. History of Equine Physical Therapy. eHow. Demand Media. n. d. Web. 3 April 2014 History of Hippotherapy. American Hippotherapy Association, 2010. Web. 3 April 2014. Introduction to Hippotherapy. American Hippotherapy Association, 2000. Web. 5 April 2014 Lis Hartel, Danish polio-hit equestrian, dies. USA Today, 13 Febuary 2009. Web. 5 April 2014.