Career Profile: Hippotherapist
Horses can be fun to ride, but they are good for much more. Hippotherapists work with horses to help people with physical and mental needs to recover from illnesses and injuries or to overcome other issues in their lives. If you are comfortable around horses and enjoy working with people, this job might be right for you.
For people who have trouble walking long distances, riding a horse can be a good chance to get out into nature and to enjoy the fresh air. People who have trouble with using their hands can benefit from the work of putting the bridle, reigns, and saddle on a horse or from brushing the horse down after a ride. Sometimes, children or adults who have trouble connecting with other people have an easier time working with animals. Being around horses can be very calming, especially with a hippotherapist to guide the process.
Hippotherapists (“horse healers”) should be very comfortable around horses and know all of the basics about how to ride, how to calm a frightened horse, what to feed the animals, and when to call a veterinarian for a sick horse. They also need to know about the different types of therapy, such as physical therapy for people with balance problems.
Often, people in this field have training in another branch of therapy before they specialize in hippotherapy. This training could be a sixteen-month occupational therapy course where they learn about ways to keep people’s minds active as they recover from illnesses. It could be a physiotherapy diploma from a college or a four-year degree in therapy from a university. Short courses specifically in hippotherapy are also available at various colleges, and training on the job is also helpful.
Most jobs in hippotherapy are likely to be away from large cities or towns, in places where there is enough room to keep several large horses. Still, they have to be close enough to people so that patients can come for their therapy. Jobs in this field are not common, but people can make their own jobs if they want. For example, they might want to offer hippotherapy in connection with riding stables at a summer camp so that the horses already have a place to stay and people to look after them.
Starting salaries for hippotherapists are just under $39,000 and can rise to more than $52,000. The job involves a lot of work outdoors or in barns, which can be very uncomfortable in winter. Hippotherapists might need to look after and feed the horses, as well as doing paperwork to keep track of the patients and their therapy. Working with other therapists, doctors, and family members might also be necessary. People in this job might need to work long hours, especially in the evenings and on weekends when patients are available to come.
Like any other job, hippotherapy can be difficult, but it can also be very interesting and useful. If you feel comfortable with horses and enjoy working with people, the job of hippotherapist might be right for you.
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