What is Hippotherapy?

What is Hippotherapy?

According to the American Hippotherapy Association (AHA Inc.), “The term hippotherapy refers to how occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech-language pathology professionals use evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning in the purposeful manipulation of equine movement as a therapy tool to engage sensory, neuromotor and cognitive systems to promote functional outcomes.  Best practice dictates that occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech-language pathology professionals integrate hippotherapy into the patient’s plan of care, along with other therapy tools and/or strategies..”

The term originates from the Greek word, “hippos” meaning horse (or equine).  Therefore, it roughly translates as “treatment with the help of the horse”.

The movement produced by the horse’s walk produces the following movement in the patient:

Up/Down, Forward/Back, Left/Right, Through space

This movement provides input to the sensory, neuromuscular and physiological systems simultaneously.  It is not possible to replicate this highly organized movement in a clinic.

There is substantial body of research related to the use of animals in therapy.  There are over 50 peer reviewed, published articles specific to the use of hippotherapy in treatment.  They are listed on The AHA Inc. bibliography.  In addition, there are numerous articles related to the benefits of animal assisted therapy.

It is considered best practice for hippotherapy to be included as part of a “total plan of care”.  Therefore, it should be delivered in conjunction with other OT, PT, or SLP treatment strategies.  Hence, clients who receive speech therapy incorporating hippotherapy at Speech Language Pathology in Motion are also seen in our Hauppauge clinic and off of the horse while at the farm as part of their treatment plan.

Treatment incorporating hippotherapy is fun!  Clients who enjoy therapy are more motivated to participate and are more likely to make progress.

To learn more visit the AHA Inc. website at www.americanhippotherapyassociation.org

Tina is the owner of Speech Language Pathology in Motion, a private practice on Long Island, NY. Her continuing education has included training in numerous speech language pathology treatment techniques including animal assisted therapy, Hippotherapy, PROMPT, DIRFloortime, The SOS Approach to Feeding, NDT, LAMP, and TEACCH. Tina has been recognized as a board certified hippotherapy clinical specialist (HPCS) since 2011 and is one of only ten SLPs in the United States to hold this credential.

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© 2017 – 2019, Tina M. Rocco, M.A. CCC-SLP, HPCS. All rights reserved.

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