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Hippo-therapy and MS

I have added a new activity to my repertoire! Therapeutic horseback riding or hippo-therapy! Have you heard of it before? I certainly had not. Though I live in the south, riding horses was never on my radar. Certainly, not since multiple sclerosis joined this party.

I was watching the news one evening and saw a story that said horse back riding strengthens not only your core muscles but also those used for walking. That was all I needed to hear! I yelled to no one in particular, “Sign me up!”

I learned that the curve of the horse’s back and the horse’s movements make them ideal for therapy. Simply sitting on the horse can stretch hip joints, reduce pain, and spasticity. Get this. The horse’s pelvis mimics our pelvis; in turn the horse’s walk simulates the way we walk. Moreover, while riding, the movement of the rider’s hips can increase flexibility and muscle tone, in the legs.

In the long run this could reduce reliance on muscle relaxants.

How are your coordination, balance, and posture? Horse back riding can address all of these concerns. Not to leave out that simply learning a new skill can help fortify self-esteem and well-being.

Now here is where I ran into my first speed bump. The center I found locally was set up for those of us with disabilities, but typically had young riders. After completing the necessary paperwork, I showed up to a class of only me! Which for my first class wasn’t bad, but I guess I wanted a little company.

I expected it to be costly, but the center was obviously subsidized, because it only cost me 25 bucks for 45 minutes! I must add though that at first, I could only last 20 minutes! Now, after nearly a little over a month I’m up to the full 45! But I still want company.

I began attending National MS Society meetings for the sheer purpose of rounding up more riders and sharing with others the fact that I had found something we can do. It always bothers me to hear someone say, if I can do it, you can to!” The only reason I excused myself is because when I enter a room of MSer’s, I’m usually one of, if not the most physically disabled.

They have an awesome ramp there that allows the horses to walk right up to my wheelchair after I have ascended the ramp. Someone hands me my helmet, then my husband helps me out of my chair onto the horse’s back. A volunteer helps place my western saddle and someone else places my legs in stirrups.

They again make sure I’m seated safely and correctly and we’re off!

Usually, the next day I’m pretty tired.  Next time I plan on taking my muscle relaxants after riding. After all, I do not want to relax my core too much before the ride…right?

Long story short Google therapeutic horseback riding near you!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Rhea D Becker
    7 years ago

    I have loved horses since I was about 3 yrs old. Did some riding when I was a teen but not since then. Reading the article reminded me of my passion for horses and I’m actively looking for a place near me. Thanks for reminding me of one of my greatest passions in life. Keep up the great work and hope we can get this out to the masses.

  • Laura Kolaczkowski
    7 years ago

    Nicole, What a great way to introduce hippotherapy to a larger audience by writing about it here. I hope you will continue to share your experience – it can only encourage us to learn more. Happy trails!! – Laura

  • Nicole Lemelle author
    7 years ago

    Laura, I hope many get a hold of it. I know one consideration is finding a spot.

  • keli
    7 years ago

    I can’t say enough good about riding for therapy – both physical and mental. I have MS and have ridden all my life. I gave it up due to college/work, etc. Shortly after my diagnosis at age 24, I got back into riding and have been riding ever since. The changes I felt in my balance, my coordination, and my confidence were incredible. I have even been showing and believe it or not, jumping! I got a horse about 14 years ago and it was the best thing I did. I also volunteered at a therapeutic facility – riding is good for all types of ailments. Find a good facility or work with someone who understands what you are dealing with. It is good for body, mind and soul!

  • Nicole Lemelle author
    7 years ago

    Keli, Wow you jump? Awesome!

  • Josh
    7 years ago

    I have also read about the benefits of hippo-therapy, but never lended them much credence, but it seems that I need to explore it more deeply. Thank you for sharing, Nicole!


  • Nicole Lemelle author
    7 years ago

    Josh, I hope you find a good spot!

  • Sonya
    7 years ago

    Good Morning Nicole!
    Thank-you so much for the informative article! I have heard of this before, when Mitt Romney was running for president. Ann rides horses for therapy, but they certainly didn’t go into this much detail, as to the benefits of riding! I have always loved horses,from afar ;-),grew up, & still live, in the south, but have never ridden. Keep up the good work! Blessings to you!

  • Nicole Lemelle author
    7 years ago

    Sonya, Thanks for the feedback. My first time hearing about it was Ann R as well, but didn’t think it accessible to me. That’s both physically AND financially.

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