Brain anatomy illustration Including limbic system structures. The caudate nucleus, putamen, globus pallidus (yellow), the fornix (green), the thalamus (light blue), the hypothalamus (dark blue), the hippocampus (purple), the amygdala (pink), the mammillary body (dark yellow ), the olfactory bulbs (light green). Credit: BSIP / Universal Images Group / Getty Im
The possibility of positively addressing the limbic system during hippotherapy treatment session definitely belongs to the most important effect. It is well-known that the limbic system is responsible for controlling various functions in the body. Some of these functions include interpreting emotional responses, storing memories, and regulating hormones. The limbic system is also involved with sensory perception, motor function, and olfaction.
Specifically, contact with a horse allows an outdoor activity in an informal setting. It brings positive emotions from his own movement experience. This experience, if perceived well, has shown a positive effect on the very fast formation of stable memory traces. We are talking about stimulating of the limbic system and motor learning.
Additional indirect effects include:
- Improvement of respiratory functions – hippotherapy as regular physical activity positively affects physical fitness and leads to adaptation mechanisms of the respiratory system.
- Supporting peristalsis – intestinal peristalsis and natural process of evacuation is promoted by linking the rhythmic movement stimulation, heat, and the child´s position on horseback.
- Affecting fine motor skills – the primary affect of fine motor skills occurs through direct contact with the horse, which offers a wide range of tactile stimuli (stroking, cleaning, and feeding the horse). A secondary influence is caused by gross motor skills improvements.
- Improving communication skills – the rich afferent stimulation, good movement and emotional experience enable to improve nonverbal and verbal language (articulation, vocabulary enrichment, rhythm, and ability to socialization).
- Influence on cognitive skills – hippotherapy positively affects the quality of cognitive skills through a clearly defined sequence of tasks that are repeated within the treatment session.