About Us

The American Hippotherapy Association is a 501 C 3 Non-profit organization, which provides educational resources and continuing education courses for occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech-language pathology professionals who incorporate equines, equine movement and the equine environment in treatment.  AHA, Inc. believes that individuals in need of habilitation or rehabilitation are best served by skilled and licensed healthcare professionals. As such, AHA, Inc. is unique in that we are the only organization in the United States whose focus in on educating licensed healthcare professionals on therapy services incorporating equines.  

The AHA Inc. that exists today began in 1987 when a group of dedicated therapists traveled to Germany, then sections of the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA).  In 2003, American Hippotherapy Association, Inc. separated from NARHA to incorporate as a separate 501C3 organization. 

Since it’s beginnings, AHA Inc. has been an organization dedicated to licensed therapists and the individuals they serve.


Improve lives by advancing education, best practices and resources for licensed healthcare professionals who incorporate horses in therapy.


To have skilled therapy services that incorporate horses readily available to every person who has the potential to benefit.


Core Values

Commitment to the highest standards of personal, ethical, and professional behavior.

Commitment to good stewardship, transparency, and fiduciary responsibility.

Promoting advances in treatment and research.

Promoting the highest caliber of programs and resources.

Networking and partnering with organizations with similar missions and values.

2018 – 2021 Strategic Plan

Executive Summary

Based on a comprehensive market research survey, board interviews, and a board survey, clear themes emerged regarding the future direction of AHA, Inc.  These themes led to the establishment of key strategic focus areas.

Strategic Focus Areas

After deliberation, the board established four areas of strategic focus moving forward:

  1. Establish Long-Term Financial Stability: Create a plan to develop long-term financial stability, which includes new fundraising strategies for AHA, Inc.
  2. Improve the Quality and Breadth of Education: Create new dynamic educational offerings that have approved discipline-specific CEUs, are marketed consistently, and are supported by current technology.
  3. Enhance AHA Public Presence: Create a global public presence.  Invite conversations with partners to achieve mainstream awareness, understanding and acceptance.
  4. Explore Membership Expansion Opportunities: Appoint a visionary task force to explore and recommend membership expansion opportunities.

Next Steps

Some key next steps following the planning session are:

  • Review and validate the goals/key milestones
  • Include the strategic focus areas on board meeting agendas
  • Create a board pacing calendar incorporating key milestones/monitoring and evaluation of Strategic Plan initiatives – completed

Our History

The history of hippotherapy and the growth of AHA, Inc.:

Before 1900

  • 460-377 B.C. – Hippocrates in ancient Greece wrote a chapter on ‘Natural Exercise’ and mentions riding
  • 1569 – Merkurialis of Italy wrote on ‘The Art of Gymnastics’ mentioning the horse and riding
  • 1780 – Tissot of France in his book ‘Medical and Surgical Gymnastics’ regarded riding at the walk as the most beneficial gait. He was also the first to describe the effects of too much riding as well as contraindications.

Since 1900

  • In 1952 at the Helsinki Olympics, Liz Hartel won a silver medal in equestrian sports and told the world how riding had helped her recover from polio.
  • In the 1960’s therapeutic riding centers developed throughout Europe, Canada and the US.
  • In the 1960’s the horse began to be viewed as an adjunct to physical therapy in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. This endeavor was called ‘hippotherapy’.
  • In 1969 the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) was established in the United States.
  • In the 1970’s physical therapists in the United States began to develop treatment uses for the movement of the horse.
  • In 1987 a group of 18 American and Canadian therapists went to Germany to study hippotherapy and began development of a standardized hippotherapy curriculum.
  • 1988-1992 – Further development of standardized curricula on hippotherapy by the National Hippotherapy Curriculum Development Committee.
  • 1992 – Formation of the American Hippotherapy Association.
  • 1993 – The American Hippotherapy Association was approved as the first Section of NARHA.
  • 1994 – AHA Inc. established therapist registration and set standards of practice for hippotherapy.
  • 1999 – American Hippotherapy Certification Board was established. The first Hippotherapy Clinical Specialists (HPCS) examination.
  • 2003 – AHA Inc. became an independent 501(c)3 and incorporated the organization in Florida
  •  2007 – In April, First national AHA, Inc. conference was held in Atlanta, GA and  AHA, Inc. hires its first Executive Director, Bonnie Cunningham, PT, HPCS
  • 2011 – Received letter of support from AOTA
  • 2012 – Received letter of support from APTA
  • 2016 – Reimbursement Committee changes from taskforce to standing committee
  • 2017 – New committees formed to address the growing needs of members and AHA, Inc.
    • Ethics and Advocacy
    • Marketing and Social Media
  • In March 2017 – Best practices statement adopted and released, Terminology document revised and released, Use of Hippotherapy in Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Speech Language Pathology position document was also released.
  • In October 2017 – received letter of support from ASHA
  • 2018 – AHA Inc, moved into new offices and all staff and materials are under one roof!
    • At the start of the year the Board held a two-day Strategic Planning session and conducted a Market Research project to understand our members needs and visions
    • Fund Development Committee was established after the March 2018 Strategic Planning meeting
    • In March of 2018 the Position Statement on Coding and Billing document was updatedand released to the public along with the Background on use S-code document
  • 2019 – AHA, Inc. became an approved Continuing Education Credit provider with ASHA and AOTA. Click Here for more information

Our founding members:

  • Nancy McGibbon – First President
  • Elizabeth Baker
  • Terri Barnes
  • Jane Copeland Fitzpatrick
  • Gertrude Freeman
  • Barbara Glasow
  • Pippa Hodge
  • Carolyn Jagielski
  • Linda Mitchell
  • Molly Lingua
  • Claudia Morin
  • Marcee Rosenzwei