A rhythmic and regular horse walk is the foundation for creating of maximum stereotypical effect to a client in order to cause, train and create a reaction program – within the motor learning. During a therapeutic session, a well-chosen and prepared horse carries a client on its relaxed back and it influences client´s body by its spine movement impulses. These impulses are generated by qualities of a horse walk. It depends on the way of horse handling and on the environment (where the horse is walking).
Ways of horse handling in order to influence its back movement:
- Walking speed (stride length, stride cadence) – it can be modified during hippotherapy treatment session by ahorse-leader and thus affects the amplitude of movement impulses transmitted to the client.
- Walking surface – horse’s movement on a hard surface is used to increase movement impulses and enhance walk rhythm and its regularity. A walking horseback on a soft surface (grass, sand arena) can decrease the intensity of transferred impulses and at the same time it affects the variability of individual impulses – which is good for increasing intensity of therapy.
- Walking terrain – this takes an important role in the transmission of movement impulses. Horse moves differently while walking downhill, on even terrain or uphill. It is essential that the therapist knows all these regularities and targets this factor for the therapy effect.
- Walking direction – the back of a walking horse moves differently on a straight line than while changing direction – turning. In hippotherapy, straight line is most applied as it offers symmetrical movement impulses. Therapists specifically use changes of direction to increase the intensity of therapy.