How and Why it Works

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How does it work?


Sensory integration is the ability of the brain to receive and process stimuli and then offer an appropriate response. (localize, sort and direct senses)

When sensory integration problems occur the correct response is not given to the stimuli received.


Sensory Integration Location and Specification


1.   Somato Sensory System-is located in the area of the brain where the initial message is received: taste, touch, sight, smell, hearing

1.1 Modulation (hyper-over sensitive or hypo- under sensitive)

Affected Area

Internal symptom

External symptom


Day Dreamer

Looking around


Withdraws, silent

Manipulate, my way


Gross Motor

Fine Motor

1.2 Discrimination

      Perception- See + Interpret: spatial awareness, geometry, word sums, hand eye co-ordination, un-neat hand writing.

      Learning problems- struggle to copy from blackboard, lack of concentration.

2. Vestibular apparatus

Three canals located in the inner ear with fluid inside, these canals are located near the cerebellum; the more stimulation these canals receive the more the cerebellum and brain stem are stimulated the faster formation of neuro pathways and learning takes place.


The vestibular system is constantly stimulated by the movement of the horse throughout the therapeutic lesson.

Effects of vestibular malfunction

Due to the integration of the vestibular apparatus into the cerebellum (part of brain) there are many different symptoms and conditions that result as a malfunction of the vestibular apparatus. Even if the conditions are not linked directly to the vestibular apparatus the location and stimulation of the apparatus is beneficial and helps in improving all conditions.  

   1. Post rotary Nystagmus test- tests if the vestibular system is over active or under-active. 

Underactive- only vestibular, passivity

Over active- vestibular and hemispherical, hyper active

      2. Muscle tone- the normal state of tension of muscles in the body while in a relaxed state.

High muscle tone (hypertonia)- found in cerebral damage patients results in tightly contracted muscles

Low muscle tone (hypotonia)-  Found in patients with learning disabilities, sloppy posture, tire easily, fidget a lot.

Therapy- work on muscle tones by correcting posture, the position on the horse also corrects, trunk rotation exercises.


3. Postural adjustment Mechanism- the ability to adjust the body when its position changes or environment changes.

Effects – Balance, reflexes, trunk rotation

Results- Hemispherical integration> trunk rotation> spatial perception> swap letters and numbers> reading and spelling problems

Therapy- just riding the horse stimulates this, trunk rotation and balance activities will help.

4. Bilateral integration- the ability to co-ordinate the use both limbs simultaneously.

Results- does not want to hold book while writing, struggles with crossing the midline, struggles to eat with knife and fork

Therapy- do activities with both hands, clapping hands, playing with shaving cream in plate with both hands.

5. Laterality- the ability to have an accurate body concept and idea of where what is.

Results- Discerning right and left, midline activities, writes the wrong way around.

Therapy- Gross motor activities that involve crossing of midline, figure eight with arms.

6. Eye muscle co-ordination- Following with eyes, convergence, peripheral vision, localisation.

Results- visual foreground problems, reading, copying from blackboard.

Therapy- let the patient follow an object with their eyes, shift focus to near and far, work on peripheral

7. Speech- one canal of the vestibular apparatus is for speech, thus stimulation by horse riding improves speech.

8. Proprioception- the ability to sense the position and space of the body

Therapy- Apply pressure to ligaments around wrists (anxiety) and ankles (active), calming the patient and improving muscle tone.

9. Hand eye co-ordination and fine motor skills- hand eye co-ordination is used to perform any action ( throwing a ball), fine motor skills are used for precise movements.(colouring inside the lines)

Therapy- Work on shoulder girdle, Daman se Brachiaton- ladder into class.

10. Praxis-the ability to formulate an idea and effectively execute it. Motor planning and oral Planning.

1.    Ideation (Right brain)

2.   Logic (Left brain)

3.   Doing (Right and Left brain)

Results- rhythm, repetition, judgement, work speed, scratching

Therapy- repetitive activities that require motor planning.

11. Hemispherical integration- the ability of both sides of the brain to function effectively.

Learning styles-

Visual (right brain)

Audio (left brain)

Movement (both)

Functional dominance- the preferred dominant hand

Genetic dominance- inherited dominance

Brain and dominance cross over



The Lesson

The following can be stimulated during a lesson.

      Tactile system

      Muscle tone



      Trunk rotation

      Eye muscles

      Bilateral motor integration

      Body image and concept


      Crossing of midline

      Spatial perception



      Hand eye co-ordination

      Fine Motor skills


      Hemispherical integration

      Unbalanced vestibular system

For a more detailed description of the therapeutic program read the article "What We Do"


  • Daniel, who was diagnosed ASD at the age of 3, was completely non-verbal, not able to communicate his need, very active and totally unsociable. Roughly in August 2014, he started saying a few words and slowly his vocabulary started developing. Month to month we could hear improvement in his speach and were delighted at this development. But then in May 2015, he started horse riding with Lisa who patiently worked with him and within the first month, his school teacher confirmed definite and remarkable improvement in his speach, concentration levels, social interaction and much more.

     Since Daniel has started horse riding, I now recommend it above any other therapy, to anyone who has voiced any sort of concern for their child's development. 

     Thanks for your dedication, Lisa! 


  • My son, Henko was born on 21 August 2009.  He was a very calm baby with the most beautiful blue eyes, a real angel.  At first he developed normally but between the age of 1 and 2, his development slowed down.  He became more quite, struggled to sleep, had repetitive behaviour, didn’t cope with changes in routine or environment, had problems with social skills…  What was concerning me most was the delay in speech as well as being ‘’in his own world’’ sometimes.  I knew something was wrong. 

     Henko started with Speech therapy in 2012.  Within a short period, he also started with Occupational therapy.  After a few months, the Speech and OT Therapist suggested that we take Henko to Dr Lippert as the progress he made was very poor.  Dr Lippert diagnosed Henko with PDD (ASD) and ADHD.  Early 2015, I decided to take Henko for horse riding/therapy.  I felt we needed to try something new as he showed a lot of progress with the OT, but he was still not able to communicate verbally. 

     On the first day with Lisa (May 2015), I still told myself not to have high expectations regarding the results… if the horse riding made him happy, I would have been pleased.  Henko wasn’t in a good mood on arrival.  I was totally shocked after the first session.  On our way home, Henko was in ‘’a good space’’ and very happy.  He was very verbal and loud – for the first time he was mumbling a lot.  I could see (and hear in this case) the change in Henko the next day as well.  After this experience, Wednesdays became my favourite day of the week!

     Lisa and her assistants know how to work with children.  They are in control and strict when needed, but also motivate the children in a positive way when they see tenderness is needed.

     Dr Lippert told me that I’m doing enough for my child by taking him to Speech and OT therapy (and to him) but I feel that the horse riding therapy definitely stimulates Henko.  Therefore I recommend Horse riding/therapy to any child with speech problems.

     Marie du Preez

  • My son has been doing “horse riding” for around 4 months with Lisa. He is more confidant, he follows her instructions and he is doing occupational therapy without him even knowing. Lisa is very good with handling him, as he can be difficult, but he melts in her hands. I would recommend this therapy to anyone! 

    Christelle Jordaan