Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

July 30, 2013

Hippotherapy – What is it?

hippotherapy therapy horsesThe following is adapted from the American Hippotherapy Association (AHA) website:, as well as my own personal training and practice. Please visit the AHA website for more information and to find a therapist in your area who uses hippotherapy as a treatment modality.

When people hear the term hippotherapy many confuse it with therapeutic riding or think that it is a therapy in and of itself. Hippotherapy is not its own therapy, but rather is a modality used in physical, occupational, and speech-language therapy.  The physical, occupational, and speech-language therapist uses equine movement as a treatment strategy as part of an integrated rehabilitation approach when appropriate. It has evolved over the last 30 years and has resulted in improved functional outcomes for a variety of patients who receive it.

Why the horse?

  • The movement of the horse, its impulsion and gait, provides sensory input which is variable, rhythmic, and repetitive in a manner that we cannot replicate on a therapy ball, swing, etc.
  • This input from the gait and impulsion of the horse provides for the patient input similar to human movement patterns of the pelvis while walking.
  • The variability of the horse‚Äôs gait enables the therapist to grade the degree of sensory input to the patient, and then utilize this movement in combination with other treatment strategies to achieve desired results.

Why speech on horseback?

  • Equine movement allows me as a speech-language pathologist to facilitate the physiologic systems that support speech and language in a way that no other modality can.
  • The consistent gait and impulsion of the horse provides motor and sensory input to the child that supports me in providing effective remediation of communication disorders.
  • It is beneficial for children with speech-motor disorders such as Apraxia of speech, children with Cerebral Palsy, Autism spectrum, anxiety, sensory needs, etc.
  • It is a great supplement to traditional speech-language therapy!