For Families

Why choose an AHA Trained therapist?

Effective use of equine movement as a treatment tool/strategy requires extensive knowledge of the interaction of human and equine physiology when a patient is placed on a moving horse.

Therapy professionals need in depth understanding of equines and equine movement to safely and effectively integrate the impact of equine movement with other therapy tools/strategies to achieve their patients’ treatment goals.

Since 1992, the American Hippotherapy Association Inc. has offered the only standardized curriculum dedicated to hippotherapy as a treatment tool/strategy within occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech-language therapy.  AHA Inc. trained therapists are expected to follow the American Hippotherapy Association, Inc. Statements of Best Practice for the Use of Hippotherapy by Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Speech-Language Pathology Professionals.

Voluntary certification in the inclusion of hippotherapy as a treatment tool/strategy within occupational therapy, physical therapy or speech language pathology services is available from the American Hippotherapy Certification Board (AHCB).  There is a growing number of therapists who have successfully met the AHCB criteria and are recognized as “AHCB Certified” or “Board Certified Hippotherapy Clinical Specialists” (HPCS).  To learn more about certification click here

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How does hippotherapy differ from Adaptive or Therapeutic riding?

The term “Hippotherapy” refers to the inclusion of purposefully manipulated equine movement into a client’s plan of care as a treatment tool or strategy.  This can be done by occupational therapy, physical therapy or speech language pathology professionals while working within their scope of practice.  Occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech language pathology services are all healthcare services, which require medical necessity.  They are intended to provide habilitation or rehabilitation.

Hippotherapy should not be confused with riding lessons for individuals with special needs.  It is the position of AHA Inc. that when describing riding lessons for individuals with special needs, the term “therapeutic riding” may imply “therapy” and may be misleading.  Therefore, in the best interest of consumers and public protection, the preferred term of AHA Inc. to describe this activity is “adaptive horseback riding”.

Adaptive horseback riding is a riding lesson for individuals with special needs.  Adaptive horseback riding lessons are provided under the guidance of a horseback riding instructor.  The purpose of adaptive horseback riding lessons is to teach riding skills and/or allow for participation in horseback riding for individuals with a variety of needs.  Adaptive riding instructors may provide adaptations to tack, equipment, physical supports or their teaching style, to allow for participation in horseback riding for individuals with a variety of needs.  Riding instructors do not provide habilitation or rehabilitation.  If seeking therapy for yourself or your family member, be sure to seek out a licensed therapist who has completed continuing education in the use of hippotherapy in treatment.

Who can provide therapy services that include hippotherapy?

Hippotherapy is a treatment tool or strategy that can be utilized by occupational therapy, physical therapy or speech language pathology professionals.

What should families/patients expect?

At the start of therapy services, an initial evaluation should be completed by your therapist, and an appropriate treatment plan will be developed.  Hippotherapy is intended to be one part of an overall occupational therapy, physical therapy or speech language pathology treatment plan, which means your therapist will likely include a variety or treatment tools, strategies and approaches in treatment.

Families/patients should expect that treating occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech language pathology professionals who include equine movement into a therapy session have made a sound clinical judgement as to the appropriateness of hippotherapy integrated into the plan of care and that they are addressing the patient’s functional limitations and treatment needs through provision of medically necessary therapy services.

AHA Inc. trained therapists determine the potential value of including hippotherapy into the patient’s occupational therapy, physical therapy or speech-language therapy treatment.  The therapist will carefully select a horse for the client, based on the horse’s temperament, movement and confirmation.  The movement of the horse is purposefully manipulated to impact the client. In addition, skilled and licensed therapists may use various developmental positions to further enhance this movement.

AHA, Inc. statement on the HEAT

 AHA, Inc. recognizes the efforts of the author to develop the HEAT (Hippotherapy Evaluation and Treatment Tool) as an assessment tool used in “hippotherapy practice” to be performed on the horse, as well as the research opportunities it afforded.

AHA, Inc. advocates that therapists provide Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Speech-Language Pathology and incorporate hippotherapy as a tool as one part of their treatment plan, rather than as a “hippotherapy practice,” and use standardized tests and measures of daily function.

AHA, Inc. acknowledges the HEAT may be used as an adjunct assessment when the patient is seated astride the horse to provide “in-house” data and guide further standardized analysis.

 

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