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According to the American Hippotherapy Association, Inc., "Hippotherapy is a physical, occupational and speech therapy treatment strategy that utilizes equine movement."

In the hippotherapy environment, a therapist uses the horse's movement to provide carefully graded sensory input. A foundation is established to improve neurological function and sensory processing, which can be generalized to a wide range of daily activities. Unlike in therapeutic horseback riding where specific riding skills are taught, in hippotherapy the movement of the horse is a means to a treatment goal.

What is the difference between Hippotherapy and Therapeutic Riding?[edit | edit source]

In hippotherapy, a PT, OT or Speech Therapist is working directly with a patient on the horse to help the patient improve their functional skills. In Therapeutic Riding, a certified therapeutic riding instructor is teaching a person with special needs how to ride.

How does the horse help in Hippotherapy?[edit | edit source]

Physical Function

Adults and children with disabilities can improve their posture, muscle tone, coordination, balance, and motor development.

The horse's movement provides physical and sensory input, which is variable, but also rhythmic and repetitive. The variability of the horse's gait enables the therapist to grade the degree of input to the patient, then utilize this movement in combination with other treatment strategies to achieve desired results. In addition, the three-dimensional movement of the horse's pelvis leads to a movement response in the patient's pelvis which is similar to the movement patterns of walking. A foundation is established to improve neurological function and sensory processing, which can be generalized to a wide range of daily activities. Hippotherapy can only be provided by a licensed physical therapist, speech therapist or occupational therapist. Hippotherapy comes from the Greek roots hippo-, meaning horse, and therapy.

What does hippotherapy help with?[edit | edit source]

Hippotherapy as a speech and language therapy[edit | edit source]

Although many people associate hippotherapy with physical therapy, hippotherapy as a speech and language therapy strategy is growing more common. Hippotherapy uses a horse to accomplish traditional speech, language, cognitive, and swallowing goals. Carefully modulated, well cadenced equine movement offers an effective means of addressing speech and language deficits through facilitation of the physiological systems that support speech and language function. Utilizing hippotherapy, appropriate sensory integration strategies have been integrated into the treatment to facilitate successful communication. Sensory integration via hippotherapy simultaneously addresses the vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile, visual, olfactory, and auditory systems.

Medical conditions for which hippotherapy is indicated[edit | edit source]

Some medical conditions for which hippotherapy may be commonly indicated are listed below. However, hippotherapy is not for every patient; specially trained health professionals must evaluate each potential patient on an individual basis.

HPCS certification[edit | edit source]

Hippotherapy Clinical Specialty (HPCS) Certification is a designation indicating board certification of therapists who have advanced knowledge and experience in hippotherapy. Physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech and language pathologists who have been practicing their profession for at least three years (6,000 hours) and have 100 hours of hippotherapy practice within the three years prior are permitted to take the Hippotherapy Clinical Specialty Certification Examination. Those who pass become board certified in hippotherapy and are entitled to use the HPCS designation after their name. HPCS certification lasts for five years.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Sterba JA (2007). Does horseback riding therapy or therapist-directed hippotherapy rehabilitate children with cerebral palsy?. Dev Med Child Neurol 49 (1): 68–73.

External links[edit | edit source]

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