Equine assisted therapy
(hippotherapy)

what is equine assisted therapy (Hippotherapy)

We are often asked the difference in hippotherapy and therapeutic riding. Unfortunately the answer is not always simple. Although below we break it down further, keep in mind equine assisted therapy (hippotherapy) uses a licensed professional and the natural movement of horse to assist those with movement dysfunction. The primary goal is to strengthen muscles our clients need for a more independent life. To better accomplish this, a licensed physical, occupational, or speech therapists partners with your physician to devise a specific plan around both the horse’s movement, various positioning, and fine motor skill exercises.

Who benefits from Equine Assisted Therapy?

  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Sensory Integrative Disorders
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Developmental Delay
  • Down Syndrome
  • Spina Bifida
  • Functional Spinal Kyphosis
  • Scoliosis
  • Lordosis
  • Cerebral Vascular Accident/Stroke

What are some differences in Equine Assisted Therapy and Therapeutic Riding.

Equine Assisted Therapy (hippotherapy)

Therapeutic Riding

A licensed physical, occupational, or speech therapists partners with your physician to devise a specific plan to use the horse’s movement to assist the client to live a more independent life.

Therapeutic riding is an equine-assisted activity for the purpose of contributing positively to the cognitive, physical, emotional and social well-being of individuals with special needs. (definition provided by Path).

Your licensed professional develops a one-on-one plan specific to the client’s need. The detailed plan consists of specific goals that are documented and reassessed after each session.

An equine specialist teaches riding lessons in a group setting to individuals with special needs.

The therapist/equine specialist selects a therapy horse very specific to the client’s plan. For example, “Adele’s” movement is very symmetrical, and her demeanor is ideal for clients.

Although the horses need the temperament for the rider, they are not specifically used based on stride or the rider’s needs.

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 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.

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