Hippotherapy FAQ

What is Hippotherapy?

  • Comes from the Greek word “hippos” meaning horse.
  • Used by physical, occupational and speech therapists as a treatment strategy
  • Treatment with the help of the horse’s movement.
  • Goal is to improve function (e.g. reaching, sitting, standing and walking)

Click on the questions below to learn more about hippotherapy.

What does research say about hippotherapy?
Hippotherapy may improve:

  • Balance
  • Coordination
  • Daily life skills
  • Energy expenditure
  • Gross motor skills
  • Head and trunk control
  • Muscle tone
  • Posture
  • Psychosocial function
  • Quality of life
  • Reaching skills
Who benefits from incorporating hippotherapy into a treatment plan?
Children with:

  • Autism
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Developmental Coordination Disorder
  • Developmental Delay
  • Down Syndrome
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Other genetic conditions
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
Why use the horse?
In response to the horse’s movement, the child positioned on top of the horse actively uses his or her body to maintain balance and posture. Using the horse can motivate the child to give more effort and try harder skills.
How does hippotherapy differ from horseback riding lessons?
Hippotherapy is provided by a physical, occupational or speech therapist with American Hippotherapy Association (AHA) training. The goal of hippotherapy is to improve function, not to teach riding skills. With hippotherapy, the therapist directs the horse’s movement, not the child. If a child with a disability wants to learn riding skills, look for a riding instructor with Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH) training.
What activities are performed on the horse?
Activities are based on the child’s therapy goals and may involve the head, trunk, pelvis, arms, and legs. Activities are chosen to develop balance, coordination, range of motion, posture, strength, and fine and gross motor skills.
Will insurance pay for therapy services that may include hippotherapy?

Some insurances pay for physical, occupational or speech therapy using hippotherapy, but a copay may be required. Other insurances do not pay for hippotherapy. Our office manager will be able to help you determine your insurance coverage.

How does my child get started?
Before starting hippotherapy, a doctor’s order is required. A physical, occupational or speech therapist will then evaluate your child to see if hippotherapy is the right treatment.