The Surprising Benefits of Senior Horse Therapy

horse therapyWe all know about the benefits that pets can have on our mood, and it certainly is no different for our elder loved ones. But are you aware of the health benefits a horse can have on your loved one? Equine or horse therapy can help with a myriad of disorders and disabilities in children and young adults, but there is a specific kind of horse therapy aimed at helping elders.

This kind of horse therapy, also called “hippotherapy for the elderly,” has been shown to greatly improve mobility, strength and balance in the elderly for conditions such as stroke, post-surgical rehab, balance problems, and even brain injury.

There have been several recent studies that point to marked improvement in lower limb strength and balance in the elderly after just a few weeks of hippotherapy. It is believed that the variable, rhythmic and repetitive movement that the horse provides helps to improve strength and balance.

If you are interested in finding a hippotherapist for your loved one, we can help! First, get a barn recommendation from your loved one’s physician or physical therapist, and ensure that the barn employs only American Hippotherapy Certified Board (AHCB) therapists. If you are unable to find a therapist or barn through a referral, check the AHCB website.

Your therapist should also be a certified physical or occupational therapist in addition to AHCB board certified. A reputable barn providing hippotherapy ensures your loved one will have plenty of horse specialists surrounding him or her while in the saddle. You might want to be nearby encouraging your loved one, as often there is some trepidation initially when working with such a large animal.

It is said that riding along on the back of a horse mimics the usual walking gait of a human, and the subtle muscle control as a horse changes position allows for muscle development, flexibility and postural strength. If you are lucky enough to have a barn that allows your loved one to participate in the care of the horse, this can have an added benefit of creating a bond between the horse and rider, healing emotional and mental wounds along the way. Horse therapy can help decrease depression and anxiety while increasing self-confidence in the elderly.

To learn more about the benefits of horse therapy, or for assistance in providing transportation and accompaniment to enable your senior loved one to participate, contact the Arizona home health care experts at Nightingale Homecare by calling (602) 504-1555. We’d love to help get your senior loved one in the saddle and discover the many benefits of horse therapy firsthand!