According to the American Hippotherapy Association (AHA Inc.), “the term ‘hippotherapy’ refers to how occupational therapy (OT), physical therapy (PT), and speech-language pathology (SLP) professionals use evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning in the purposeful manipulation of equine movement to engage sensory, neuromotor, and cognitive systems to achieve functional outcomes. In conjunction with the affordances of the equine environment and other treatment strategies, hippotherapy is part of a patient’s integrated plan of care.”
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
© 2017, Tina M. Rocco, M.A. CCC-SLP, HPCS. All rights reserved.