Programs that offer a form of treatment for individuals who have movement dysfunction that uses the multidimensional movement of the horse to improve neurological function and sensory processing. The horse's walk provides sensory input through movement which is variable, rhythmic and repetitive. The resultant movement responses in the client are similar to human movement patterns of the pelvis while walking. The variability of the horse's gait enables the therapist to grade the degree of sensory input to the client, then use this movement in combination with other clinical treatments to achieve desired results. Hippotherapy can improve balance, posture, mobility and function; but may also affect psychological, cognitive, behavioural and communication functions. It is typically offered by physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists who have been trained in the process.
Programs that help veterans with PTSD, inmates serving a sentence in prison, emotionally disturbed individuals or people who are isolated improve their personal and social functioning by giving them an opportunity to take responsibility for and/or relate to a domestic animal. In some cases, the animals may be selected due to comparable histories of trauma. Also included are programs that bring dogs or other small pets to visit people residing in a nursing facility or another institutional setting who are ill or elderly or have disabilities; and those that employ Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) who volunteer with their owner/handler as a team, going to schools, libraries and many other settings as reading companions for children. A similar program offers children the opportunity to learn to read by reading to one of its therapy horses.
The above terms and definitions are part of the Taxonomy of Human Services, used here by permission of INFO LINE of Los Angeles.