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Horses that heal people

Updated on March 7, 2014

Hippotherapy, Equinotherapy, Terapeutic Riding

Increasingly, health professionals find positive results in horsemanship to alleviate or rehabilitate various ailments. Although different techniques, and in recent years there have been various institutions dedicated to this practice.

The use of riding as a therapeutic resource is not a new discovery:

Hippocrates, in ancient Greece, proposed it for the treatment of various ailments and to preserve health. In the Renaissance, Hieronymus Mercurialis (1530-1606), in his paper "The Art of Gymnastics" reminds us that Galen recomended horse riding, because with its practice, appart from the body, you exercise your senses, and it mentioned the virtues of the different horse steps. Another reference to that time can be found in the "Tractatus de podagra et hydrope" published back in 1683 by Thomas Sydenham, who did a detailed study about uric acid desease and how horse riding could prevent this illness.

Horses are chosen because their good temperament

Thre recent history began after wordl war I, when Olive Stands, a british physiotherapist, brought her horses to an oxford hospital for the use of handicap soldiers. The experience resulted so succesfull. that it started being replicated, gradually, in different european countries, but what was with no doubt the trigger to the use of horses in therapeutic sessions, which made this practice very popular in the whole world, and it made possible the birth of the distinct tendencies that it has today, was the achievement in the 1952 olympics by the danish Liz Hartel, when there was no olympics for handpicaps, Eigth years before, poliomyelitis paralized her legs, but after an intense rehab she was able to ride again and participate in the competition, despite the fact she needed help to get up and down the horse, she made it to compete in the dressage discipline, in which till then only men participated, she was the first woman to make it and despite her disability, she obtained the silver medal.

self esteem and independece

In argentina, the pioner in the practice of adapted equitation was Maria de los Angeles Kalbermatter, who in 1978, after suffering a leg amputation connected with international institutions and created the first equitation local school. Today the Argentina Equestrian Association for the Disabled Activities or AAAEPAD which works at the Palermo's hippodrome has more than 250 students and it gives training courses for instructors.

It is worth to clarify that the horses used are those which ride in "biped steps", this means that the horse rises the left front-leg, and the rigth back-leg at the same time and then the other two a the same time, this is how several breeds ride, such ash the creole horse. and the polo horse.There are other horses called ... , which march in lateral bipeds forwarding the sames side members at the same time between this horses are the preuvian step horse, the colombian fine step horse, and the arab horses.

meek, healthy and predictable

Besides having qualities that make them special, horses receive full training before working with young patients. Instructors select them and the type of mount and other accessories to be used by every boy, according to the pathology and neuromotor commitment.

They are not only the social and emotional aspects that are contemplated in the equine, Dr. Veronica Settepassi explains, coordinator of Equine Hippocampus Area School, located in the Equestrian Club "Buenos Aires", is highly productive in the rehabilitation of patients with multiple pathologies and different levels of severity. These can be classified into two groups: one comprising the neuromotor disorders , such as cerebral palsy, stroke sequelae , maturational delays of unknown etiology and Down syndrome , Cornelia de Lange, Angelman , and the other general developmental disorders, including nonspecific PDD, the autistic spectrum and Asperger syndromes and Rett . This, aside minor affective disorders and attention deficit disorder.

In all cases , one of the keys is the three-dimensional movement . "The horse produces a global stimulation in the three spatial planes , which facilitates profound activation of postural muscles, ie those who help us stay upright against gravity. The horse step generates imperceptible movements in our vertebral segments, which translate the whole body from the pelvis. Additionally, to be sinusoidal, it activates the vestibular system, which is the one allowing body balance, with the step frequency at a constant rate allows allowing the regulation of muscle tone which may be high or too low.

Another way that benefits, she adds, is proprioceptive , which informs us about the relative position of the various parts of the body in space: "following the horse's step is being in constant movement, is a dynamic oscillation surface which is stimulating it at all times, and this helps to make body awareness.

Neurologically , rehabilitation is based on neuronal plasticity , "The muscle stimulation that reaches the central nervous system , looking for other avenues in the injured brain, neurons , perhaps, were not specific to that action, but to give the correct stimulation, repetitive and constant , begin to specialize . then a guy who could not move his arm properly can do because it started to control the release trunk and arms, or begins to activate the cervical musculature, to fixate and be more attentive to their environment" says the specialist.


The harmony is perceived between these riders and their horses in competitive sports is sometimes more evident when it comes to disabled people

Many riders with various disabilities who participate in tournaments or championships, the couple of people who have no health problem , but at the international level , there are two figures regulate their powers : in the Paralympics competing people with disabilities physical , but intellectual , and the Special Olympics who do not have significant physical alterations , but a cognitive impairment .

The Paralympics originated in the English initiative Ludwig Guttmann , who in 1948 organized a sports competition with disabled veterans of World War II. In the next edition, competitors from the Netherlands joined and in Rome 1960 , the first formal Paralympic Games were played , Riding was incorporated in 1996 with the Atlanta dressage discipline, maintaining the rules of conventional competition. the only difference is that for the riders safety, adjustments in the saddle or reins where made.


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