How Can Equine Therapy Benefit My Child with Angelman Syndrome?

Emily Malcolm, PhD avatar

by Emily Malcolm, PhD |

Share this article:

Share article via email
bucket lists

(Courtesy of Mary Kay)

Angelman syndrome, a rare genetic disorder, is characterized by muscle weakness and physical and mental developmental delays. Many Angelman patients are also known to experience epileptic seizures.

Exercise has been shown to improve strength, coordination, balance, and posture in people with Angelman syndrome. However, physical weakness and problems with coordination can make it difficult for patients to exercise safely. One supervised program that has been useful for some is equine therapy, also known as hippotherapy.

What is equine therapy?

Equine therapy is, essentially, horseback riding under guided and trained supervision. Riding a horse exercises many of the muscles that are also used for walking. People with muscle weakness can ride astride the horse, with one or two assistants on either side to help them balance and ensure they don’t fall off the horse.

One helper guides the horse on a lead, and engages the patient in games that help with balance and focus.

Is equine therapy safe?

All riders wear protective gear such as boots and a helmet. Equine therapy center personnel are trained to recognize seizures, and move patients safely away from the horse if they experience them. The horses are also trained not to panic if a rider becomes ill. However, children with uncontrolled epilepsy should not engage in equine therapy.

How can I find an equine therapy center?

Talk to your physiotherapist — this specialist may be able to recommend a certified center near you. The physiotherapist may also be able to coordinate with the center to establish guidelines and goals for the therapy, as well as track progress and address issues or concerns that might arise.


Last updated: Oct. 8, 2019


Angelman Syndrome News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.