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What comes to mind when you think of a horse?

Horse racing, hunting, high-society rides, and finally a peasant carrying firewood from the forest on a cart. Hardly anyone will think that a horse is also a unique live simulator.

It is thanks to this ability that the method of therapeutic riding, or hippotherapy, has emerged, which has become one of the most effective ways to rehabilitate the disabled.

The benefits of riding for the recovery of the sick and injured have been known since Ancient times. Hippocrates claimed that the wounded and sick recover faster if they ride.
He also noted that in addition to the General strengthening effect, there is also a psychological effect of horse riding. He advised melancholics to ride, because it frees a person from” dark thoughts “and causes”thoughts that are cheerful and clear.” At the same time, the ancient Greek scientist attached special importance to the “rhythmic and smooth movement” of the horse. The French philosopher Denis Diderot, reviewing the achievements of all modern Sciences, wrote in 1751 a treatise “on horseback riding and its importance in order to preserve health and regain it”.

In Europe, hippotherapy began to develop intnsivno in the last 30-40 years: first in Scandinavia, then in Germany, France, Holland, Switzerland, Georgia, great Britain, Poland. This treatment method was recognized by the German physiotherapy Association (Deutsche Verband fur Physiotherapy – Zentriverband der Krankengymnasten). Scientific justification of the impact of hippotherapy on the body at the end of the XIX century was the French doctor Perron, who claimed that the beneficial effect of riding on the body is, in particular, in the activation of motor and respiratory functions, as well as blood circulation. In Norway, Elizabeth Bodiker, who used hippotherapy for 9 years in classes with former equestrian athlete Liz Harel, not only achieved an almost complete recovery, but also made it possible for her to participate in the Olympic games in Helsinki. E. Bodiker began to put other young disabled people on a horse as an experiment.

The successful results caused a sensation in Norway. The Norwegian authorities agreed to the opening of a special medical riding center (LVE) for disabled children in 1953. Hippotherapy centers began to open in many countries of the world. There are more than 1,000 groups working in the US today, and about 700 in the UK, where more than 26,000 people are recovering. In France, specialists in hippotherapy are trained: the faculty of hippotherapy at the Paris University of sport and health has been opened. In Tbilisi, The Georgian medical Academy has opened a Department of physical therapy and REIT therapy.

Hippotherapy was the subject of a special Congress in Hamburg in (1982).

In Russia, the use of hippotherapy began with the opening of the children’s ecological center “Living thread” in Moscow in 1991″
Later, hippotherapy was included in the complex of rehabilitation tools used for disabled children at the recreation center “Green light” near the city of Luga. It is known about the use of this method of rehabilitation in Peterhof, in the Institute for children with intellectual disabilities, as well as in an orphanage in Kolomna, in a boarding school in Yoshkar-Ola. In the equestrian school “Ozerki” are engaged with a group of children with cerebral palsy. Hippotherapy is also practiced in Nizhny Novgorod and Sayanogorsk. In Sergiev Posad, hippotherapy classes are organized on the basis of the public organization “Old school” with children with amputations of limbs, cerebral palsy and suffering from various mental pathologies.

Hippotherapy, as one of the technologies of social work with people with disabilities, is a complex multifunctional method of rehabilitation. In essence, hippotherapy is nothing more than a form of physical therapy (exercise therapy), where the horse, the process of riding and physical exercises performed by a person while riding are used as a rehabilitation tool. In the process of riding, all the main muscle groups of the body are included in the work. This happens on a reflex level, because sitting on a horse, moving with it, the client instinctively tries to maintain balance, so as not to fall off the horse and thereby encourages both healthy and affected muscles to work actively, without noticing it. The mechanism of action of hippotherapy on the human body is the same as that of any other form of exercise therapy. Under the influence of physical exercise, there is an increase in the function of the autonomic systems.

Hippotherapy affects the human body through two factors: psychogenic and biomechanical. The ratio of the specific weight of these mechanisms in each case depends on the disease and the tasks solved with the help of hippotherapy. Thus, in the treatment of neuroses, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, early childhood autism, the main influencing factor is psychogenic. In the treatment of postinfarction patients, patients with impaired posture, scoliosis, osteochondrosis of the spine, the leading influence factor is biomechanical. Treatment with the use of a horse as an intermediary facilitates the person suffering from neurosis, getting rid of inhibition, alleviates anxiety and makes it possible to do the right things. In adult psychoses, treatment using the horse as an intermediary makes it easier for patients to access reality, both in time and space. In children with autism, treatment is carried out using a horse as an intermediary and using a non-verbal dialogue “sign language”, with the observance of silence, distance.

The horse requires constant attention to itself and due to this, the ability of a person to adapt to reality increases. For a person suffering from mental disorders, the position on horseback is “advantageous” compared to the position of therapists: “I am at the top, they are at the bottom.” Riding requires an individual to focus attention, conscious actions, and the ability to navigate in space. In hippotherapy classes, the basic principles of psychotherapeutic influence are observed: unity of place and actors; unity of time; unity of action.

In psychotherapeutic relationships, the horse is:
a true mediator in the relationship between the hippotherapist and the rider

the recipient of the information, (the rider’s command given to the horse

stand, move, turn, etc.)

amplifying the message (the horse’s reaction to the rider’s command)

an immediate response transmitter (obeying the horse and executing the rider’s commands)
The use of hippotherapy in the rehabilitation of people suffering from various types of mental disorders gives positive results:
Facilitates the removal of inhibition
Reduces the feeling of anxiety
Organizes adaptation to real space and time
Contributes to the achievement of self-reliance
It is shown that hippotherapy (horse-riding therapy) has a positive effect on children with dysplastic scoliosis, due to the biomechanical properties of horse riding.

During the movement of the horse, the rider’s torso performs the same movements as when walking. The function of the lower extremities is performed by the horse’s limbs since they are switched off from the anti-gravity system when sitting astride and the spine is in direct contact with the horse’s back (through the saddle), the load on the trunk muscles is accentuated, the effect is high and the overall energy expenditure is small. Achieving synchronicity of movement of the child and the horse, i.e. creating a single biological system is the basis for self-correction of the curved spine.”The basis of a positive effect in dysplastic scoliosis is the creation of a strong muscular corset around the spine, which results in a correction of the curvature in the direction of reducing the degrees of curvature. Raytterapiya is a unique method of pathogenetic treatment of dysplastic scoliosis, the essence of which is in its complex effect simultaneously on the pulp core of the intervertebral disc, mobility of the spine, extensors of the trunk, which contributes to the creation of a strong muscular corset around the spine.

During a hippotherapy is provided by the simultaneous inclusion of all muscle groups of the body of the rider. Moreover, this happens on a reflex level, since the student instinctively tries to maintain balance so as not to fall off the horse, and thus encourages all the main muscle groups to work actively. In addition, none of the types of rehabilitation does not cause such a multidirectional motivation for independent activity that accompanies hippotherapy: a child feels a great desire to sit on a horse, feel like a rider, overcome fear, and gain confidence in their abilities. Such a strong motivation contributes to the maximum mobilization of volitional activity, which is achieved not only by suppressing the feeling of fear, but also by simultaneously reducing the amount and volume of hyperkinesis “in cerebral palsy”, which makes it possible to teach the client the correct construction of the main behavioral background.

There are two main factors that influence hippotherapy on those who are engaged in it: an emotional connection with the animal and rather strict conditions for riding a horse that require active mobilization of physical and mental efforts. It is their combination that creates a unique therapeutic situation that is unique to this method. The most important therapeutic factors of hippotherapy are: complex activation and mobilization of the body-physical, motivation, psychological. A characteristic feature of this method of rehabilitation is that hippotherapy sessions that take place in an emotionally charged atmosphere are usually accompanied by a General increase in the activity of those involved, an increase in mood and mental status.


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