I recently interviewed Joanna Parsons at Stride Hippotherapy and Physiotherapy to find out more.

Where does the name Hippo come from?
Hippo is ancient Greek for horse.

What is Hippotherapy?
Hippotherapy is a type of physiotherapy that uses the movement of a walking horse to deliver a physio programme.

What inspired you to start Stride Hippotherapy and Physiotherapy?
I have always loved horses and have know that horses have a therapeutic value.

I also loved being a physiotherapist, and helping children achieve their potential, no matter how they were affected by their disabilities.
Hippotherapy combines my passions, and makes therapy fun and engaging.

I can also see that children that would never be able to participate in riding, are able to take part in an activity that their siblings may also enjoy.

I completed my physiotherapy degree in 2002.
Since 2009 I have been volunteering working as a therapy advisor with the Riding for the Disabled.
I am a highly specialised paediatric physiotherapist.
Since 2016 I have been the clinical lead child physiotherapist at a North East children’s charity that supports children with physical disabilities.

In 2015 I completed my ACPTR Hippotherapy qualification which is when I started Stride Hippotherapy & Physiotherapy.
Although hippotherapy can be used in adults, my expertise is in treating children with neurological difficulties.

What is the benefit of Hippotherapy compared to more traditional forms of physiotherapy?
Where more traditional physiotherapy works on one part of the body or a limb at a time which may be limited to the cooperation and mobility of the person. Hippotherapy provides a more enriched physiotherapy session for the person.
They get to meet and enjoy sitting on the horse while working on a lot more muscles and exercises for a lot longer without even realising it.
Even sitting on a horse that is stood still is still providing the person with therapy as they have to sit tall and maintain their balance on the pony.

While the horse is moving the person instinctively uses a lot more muscles while moving with the horse. This increases the amount of muscles exercised and benefits the person’s health and mobility.

Nicole enjoying her therapy session at Stepney Bank with Duncan the pony

Why do you sit the people on the horse in different positions?
Sitting the person on the horse in different positions causing them to use different muscle groups.

Sitting sideways will focus on one side of the body while sitting backwards will improve balance and the ability to sit up.
Lying down helps by moving a larger range of muscles throughout the body. It also helps to develop head control, which is really important for sitting and standing.

Evie Jean enjoying her therapy session at Stepney Bank with Duncan the pony

Is there a risk of falling off the horse?
Every horse used in Hippotherapy has been carefully tested and assessed for its suitability.
Every horse has a different temperament and stride.
A very calm horse with a very steady stride is the best type of horse.
A horse bouncing up and down while walking or dragged its hooves would not be ideal.

At all times there are three staff around the horse while there is a person on it.One member of staff will hold and lead the horse by being by the head and controlling the walking or stopping.Two other members of staff are at each side of the horse focusing on the person by holding and helping them to stay on and adjust their position when needed.

How long do sessions last?
Each session lasts around 20 to 30 minutes.

Where do you hold sessions?
I hold sessions at Stepney Bank Stables in Newcastle and the Pegasus Centre in Morpeth.

Do people need to be referred to your company?
No they don’t need to be referred, they can contact me directly.
I would start by contacting their current therapist to see how I could help compliment their physiotherapy.

How can people contact you?
My website page is: www.stridephysio.co.uk
My email is: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Duncan the pony