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MS patients may benefit from hippotherapy

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[Speaker for the March 27, 2013, meeting was Heather Daley, owner of the HeartStrides Stables in Olympia, WA. The MS/Cancer telephone support group meeting is co-sponsored by the National MS Society and the American Cancer Society.  The call occurs the 4th Wednesday of each month.  For more information, call 713-398-4593.] 

Did you know riding a horse could help some people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?  Heather

Hippotherapy means treatment with the help of the horse. The term derives from the Greek word, hippos meaning horse. Specially trained physical and occupational therapists use this treatment for clients with movement dysfunction.

Hippotherapy offers a supervised activity for people with physical handicaps including multiple sclerosis.

The client is positioned on the horse and the therapist directs the movement of the horse; analyzes the client responses; and adjusts the treatment as needed.

Horseback riding can be a great therapy for MS patients as the shape of the animal’s back and its movement simulates the way people walk. Also, when sitting on a horse, MS patients can stretch their hip joints and increase agility and leg muscle tone.

MS patients can benefit in other ways through hippotherapy such as practicing balance, posture, stretching while on a horse. Also, learning a new skill and interacting with the animal and people can help a person’s self esteem and sense of connection to the horses and people.

People conducting hippotherapy sessions are physical, occupational or speech therapists. A horse handler leads the hippotherapy horse during the treatment session, and trained volunteers serve as side walkers.

To find a hippotherapy facility, go to


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