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Hippotherapy is an entirely passive form of riding in which the patient allows the horse to move him or her. Most often, this will involve several trained helpers on the ground: one to lead the horse, and at least two “sidewalkers” who walk alongside the rider and prevent falls by holding the rider’s body with a steadying hand. Hippotherapy is often used for children with severe posture and movement problems. It has been especially successful with cerebral palsy patients. Through hippotherapy, children born with severe disabilities can make big improvements in muscle tone and in their ability to control their head and upper body. They may also be able to reduce involuntary muscle spasms that often make it difficult for them to coordinate their movements for walking and other activities. The patient’s response to the horse’s movement is unconscious; it just “happens,” automatically, through following the rhythmic movements of the horse as it walks.

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