If you’ve been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), improving symptoms and living the best life possible is your top priority. Thankfully, there’s a lot you can do to accomplish your goal. In addition to following your doctor’s treatment plan, there are many types of complementary therapies to explore. One you may not have considered revolves around horses.
Hippotherapy involves horseback riding under the guidance of a trained physical or occupational therapist. It’s been used for years as rehabilitation therapy for people with MS and other neurological disorders. In addition to improving MS symptoms, the therapy is fun, gets you outside, and provides a psychological and emotional boost.
Never been on a horse before? No problem. People of all experience levels can reap the benefits of horse therapy. Here’s what you need to know:
Horse Therapy in Motion
The movements of a horse are similar to how you walk. The horse’s varied, rhythmic, and repetitive motions naturally engage your muscles and joints in and around your hips. Plus, the movement causes your body to continually adjust or make corrections to maintain balance.
The good news about all this work is that it doesn’t really feel like it. You focus on responding to the movements of the horse and enjoying the activity, rather than working out. Each therapy session usually involves time riding the horse as well as a period of guided exercises by your therapist.
Physical Benefits of Hippotherapy
Horse therapy has been shown to provide a host of benefits. For example, sitting on the horse can stretch your hip joints, improve coordination, and reduce pain and spasticity in leg muscles. Responding to the walking movements of the horse can build leg strength, increase endurance, and help build a stronger core. Research shows that hippotherapy can also significantly improve your balance.
Trained therapists help translate this treatment into your overall quality of life. The therapy can reduce MS-related symptoms and help you more easily perform everyday activities. For example, stronger leg muscles and better balance can help maintain or improve mobility.
The Emotional Connection
In addition to providing physical rewards, hippotherapy is also known to boost confidence and create a general sense of well-being. And learning a new skill, such as riding a horse, can build self-esteem.
To help feel good inside and out, explore horse therapy options in your area. You can find a therapist near you by contacting the American Hippotherapy Association.