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Practice Errors to Give You Terrors- common mistakes and oversights that can haunt your practice

Disclaimer: All photos included in this post were staged with the assistance of experienced horse handlers and riders. Use of these images in any context other than their use here is not permissible.

Running a physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech-language therapy practice is hard, but running a physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech-language therapy practice that safely and effectively uses the treatment tool of hippotherapy as part of a total plan of care is even harder. There are many more factors to be taken into consideration including horse handlers, sidewalkers, horses, equipment, as well as the terminology you use when discussing your practice both in person and online. In the spirit of Halloween, we’ve put together a list of some tricks to set you up for a safe and effective treat(ment).

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Augmentative and Alternative Communication and Hippotherapy


According to the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA), augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) includes all of the ways we share our ideas and feelings without talking. There two main types of AAC: unaided and aided. Unaided AAC refers to any nonverbal communication that does not require anything other than your own body. This includes pointing, gesturing, facial expressions, and body language. It is quite simple and natural to incorporate unaided AAC into the equine environment. In fact, most people use unaided AAC naturally in their day-to-day communication without any thought or planning. Aided AAC refers to a tool, device, or system that a person uses to augment their verbal and unaided communication.

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Setting up Telepractice for OT, PT & SLP Services: The Basics

In this time of uncertainty when seeing your clients in the clinic may not be safe, telepractice may be an option to ensure continuity of care!

1) Check your national organization website. AOTA, APTA, and ASHA have been in direct communication with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) and updating information regularly.

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Critically Appraised Paper & Understanding Impact Factors

Wood, W. H., & Fields, B. E. (2019). Hippotherapy: A systematic mapping review of peer-reviewed research, 1980 to 2018. Disability and Rehabilitation. DOI: 10.1080/09638288.2019.1653997

Journal Impact Factor: 2.054

What is an Impact Factor? 



AHA currently defines hippotherapy as the use of equine movement as a treatment tool to promote functional outcomes; occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech-language pathologists incorporate this treatment tool as part of their plan of care. Previous reviews of hippotherapy have either been inconclusive, or established that the research supporting hippotherapy is in early stages of scientific development. In the family of review research, systematic mapping reviews are the review of choice to implement when a body of literature is in early stages of scientific development, as they are broad in scope and include literature at varying levels of rigor. This particular systematic mapping review was informed by a phased, developmental approach to understand how complex interventions are empirically advanced. That is, research on complex interventions begins with early formulation of key elements of the intervention and its underlying treatment theory, progresses to proof of concept studies, investigation of acceptability and feasibility, and finally enters into studies of treatment efficacy and effectiveness. The purpose of this systematic mapping review was to “systematically and thoroughly gather, describe, categorize, and synthesize, or map, published research of hippotherapy as a guide to future research initiatives.”

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An interview with AHA, Inc.'s newest board members

Jessica Perkins, MS, OTR/L, HPCS

How long have you been involved with AHA, Inc?

I have been a member of AHA, Inc. since 2015, but was first exposed to hippotherapy in 2006 when I began volunteering with an OT and PT who incorporated equine movement into their practice. Working alongside them and learning about their respective professions guided my decision to become an occupational therapist and go on to attain my hippotherapy clinical specialist board certification. 

What has been the biggest surprise to you as a new board member?

As I become more familiar with the Board of Directors and the various committees that serve the AHA, Inc., I am in awe of the amount of dedication, passion, time, and effort that all of the Board and committee members contribute as they strive to advance the educational and professional standards of the organization and the industry. I am honored to serve alongside them.   

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How to sign up for an AHA, Inc. course

It’s easier than ever to sign up for an AHA, Inc. educational course. Here are the steps to get you started

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Critically Appraised Paper


Vermöhlen, V., Schiller, P., Schickendantz, S., Drache, M., Hussack, S., Gerber-Grote, A., & Pöhlau, D. (2018). Hippotherapy for patients with multiple sclerosis: A multicenter randomized controlled trial (MS-HIPPO). Multiple Sclerosis Journal24(10), 1375–1382.
Journal Impact Factor: 5.



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Hosting a Course- A Hosting Facility's Perspective

Have you thought about hosting a course for the AHA, Inc. but aren’t quite sure what it entails? While the process can be daunting for first time hosts, the AHA, Inc., and Faculty are here to assist you along the way. Below is some advice and insights from facilities that have hosted an AHA, Inc. course in the past. 

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Thank you for your support

After the rush of Thanksgiving and the start of holiday shopping, Giving Tuesday and Colorado Gives Day are great ways to give back to the organizations that mean the most to us. We are thankful to the donors who selected The AHA, Inc. to give back to this year. With the combined days. The AHA, Inc. was gifted $962. All donors selected that the funds be used at the discretion at AHA, Inc.; the funds will be used for extraordinary educational expenses and will allow us to offer more courses and create new ones!
The great thing about Giving Tuesday and Colorado Gives day is that they don’t need to be celebrated on one day, a celebration can take place all year long! If you are interested in donating to The AHA, Inc. A $10.00 donation could fund an individual with resources; $50.00 could fund university/college outreach; $250.00 could fund annual event outreach. The AHA, Inc. would not possible if it weren’t for the generosity of our members and donors. Thank you for your support this holiday season!

Global Strides- Transitions Toward International Growth

It is a very exciting time for AHA, Inc. as the organization begins to expand its knowledge and expertise to international waters. Currently there are six American Hippotherapy Certification Board (AHCB) certified therapists and four Hippotherapy Clinical Specialists (HPCS) internationally. To date, AHA, Inc. faculty have facilitated international courses in Spain, Greece, New Zealand, South Korea, Mexico, Portugal, Russia, China, South Africa, Turkey, and—this year—Saudi Arabia. These courses were host to a wide international presence.

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Taking The Leap: Steps for Transitioning to Private Practice

What makes a champion? According to Lynch (2006), a champion has courage to risk failure. A champion also has passion, vision, and creativity. They understand their weaknesses and work to strengthen them. They enjoy what they are doing, simply for the pleasure of doing it. They likely also possess a special talent, a niche personality, charisma, and a long-term vision of goals and opportunities for future possibilities. What constitutes a professional? For that matter, what is professionalism? For some, there may be an internal drive that creates a journey into professionalism. According to Atkins (2013), “Professionalism is a responsibility to bring changes in people’s lives.” He also states that attitudes drive behaviors, behaviors drive action, and action reinforces attitudes.


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Giving Tuesday with AHA, Inc.


Thanksgiving typically marks the start of the holiday season in the United States. With Black Friday, small business Saturday and Cyber Monday all following Thanksgiving, on December 3rd, giving Tuesday offers you the opportunity to give to the AHA, Inc. community. 

So what is it? 

Giving Tuesday is an international campaign for non-profits to help us reach our fundraising goals.  

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Therapy Horse Wins National Title and Heads Back to Work Monday Morning

FORT COLLINS, Co., October 9, 2019. AQHA gelding Barbies Red Rooster, known to his family as “Ricky” at Skyline Therapy Services in Edgewood, NM, was just crowned Reserve World Champion Ranch Riding Horse at the Adequan® AQHA Select World Championship Show in Fort Worth, Texas shown by his owner, AHA, Inc. faculty member and speech-language pathologist, Ruth Dismuke Blakely, MS/CCC-SLP, HPCS. The Adequan® AQHA Select World Championship Show is the world’s largest, single-breed world championship horse show open exclusively to amateur exhibitors age 50 and over. Select amateur competitors around the world must qualify for the event by earning a predetermined number of points to secure a spot in each of the classes, representing English, Western and halter disciplines. Competitors compete in a preliminary round hoping to make the top 15 “finals” round.  

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Terminology in Research and Reimbursement

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple” – Dr. Suess

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How to use the new AHA, Inc. member database

AHA, Inc. is thrilled to announce the launch of our new membership database! The new membership database will allow AHA, Inc. members to automatically renew, view other AHA, Inc. members, create a professional profile and network within our community. This new extension will also simplify course registration by allowing participants to register and purchase the course all in one place. Click the webinar below to learn more about this useful tool!

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An interview with outgoing Board Members Heather Ajzenman, Nate Harms and Lisa Harris

Earlier this year, three long-standing AHA, Inc. members finished their term on the AHA, Inc. Board of Directors. We want to send a heartfelt thank you to Heather Ajzenman, OTD, OTR/L, HPCS, Nate Harms, and Lisa Harris, MSVS, PT, HPCS for their contributions to AHA, Inc. and our mission! In celebration of all their hard-work, we interviewed each of them to learn a little bit more about them as we bid them farewell from the board (but not from the AHA, Inc!)

Heather Ajzenman, OTD, OTR/L, HPCS 

How long have you been a part of AHA, Inc.?
I was part of AHA, Inc. as a student starting in 2010 but probably joined in 2013 when I became a treating therapist and joined the board shortly after.

Why do you include hippotherapy in your practice?
I grew up with horses and used to volunteer with OTs, PTs, and SLPs that incorporated hippotherapy into their plan of care, so from early on I knew I wanted to incorporate it into my own practice. The benefits I see for many of my clients, are incredible and something I cannot re-create in the clinic or home environments.

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AHA, Inc. Alert: Are you putting yourself at risk?

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Understanding AHCB

The American Hippotherapy Certification Board (AHCB) was created in 1998 to develop and maintain a method to validate the knowledge of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-­language pathology professionals using hippotherapy in clinical practice. This directly supports the AHA, Inc. mission: improve lives by advancing education, best practices, and resources for licensed healthcare professionals who incorporate horses in therapy. To provide evidence of advanced education and use of best practices, the ACHB’s certification tests were developed.

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Joint Terminology Summit Update

The long-awaited summit for reaching consensus on baseline terms and definitions for Human-Horse Interaction Services and Methods took place in Denver, July 20th – 22nd.  Funded by the Bob Woodruff Foundation, seventeen dedicated people bringing different and varied perspectives, expertise and association representation, gathered together and, with the facilitation assistance of Zia partners, tackled the issue of inconsistent terminology. Laurie Schick and Nina Ekholm-Fry joined me in representing AHA, Inc. in the group of 17, who participated. Laurie and Nina did an outstanding job representing the viewpoints of the AHA, Inc.


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Marketing Your Practice: Terminology Dos and Don’ts

With all the nuances in terminology in our industry, it is hard to know the right way to say
things in order to market yourself appropriately. With more ways than ever to reach a growing audience, clinicians who utilize hippotherapy as a treatment tool in their practice need to be cognizant of not only their print marketing, but their digital and social marketing as well. It is often hard as professionals to find the right balance between using the appropriate words to describe our profession and the tools we use, and using words that laypeople understand and use in everyday language.

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