Hypotheses suggest that there’s a strong similarity between human walking patterns and horse gaits. Over time, as riders adjust to the horses’ movements, their muscles can adapt accordingly. This phenomenon leads to improvements in balance, coordination, and muscle strength. The smooth, rhythmic walking motion can also lead to greater trunk and head stability.
An inclusive meta-analysis indicates that hippotherapy is significantly effective in addressing symptoms of cerebral palsy, and research continues to support this notion. One study shows how it is the horse’s movement, in particular, that makes a difference. Participants who sat astride a barrel saw nowhere near the improvement as those engaged in active hippotherapy.