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 updated and 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
  • 2021 - AHA, Inc. held it's conference virtually
  • In March 2022 - AHA, Inc. returned to an in-person conference with the options of attending virtually and then moved to a new office location

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

Previous Presidents

 Name                                                                           Years (Term) 
  1. Nancy McGibbon, PT, HPCS                                 1992- 1997
  2. Barb Heine, PT, HPCS                                          1997- 2000 
  3. Jane Fitzpatrick, PT                                              2000-2001 
  4. Bonnie Cunningham, PT, MA, MPA, HPCS             2001-2005  
  5. Karen Gardner , MOT, OTR, HPCS                        2005-2007  
  6. Meredith Bazaar, CCC, SLP, HPCS                       2007-2011   
  7. Deb Silkwood Sherer, PT, DHSc, HPCS                 2011-2013                                  
  8. Jane Burrows, DPT, HPCS                                    2013-2015
  9. Steve McKenzie, MSPT                                        2015-2017
  10. Tina Rocco, CCC, SLP, HPCS                               2017-2020
  11. Lauren Janusz, MOT, OTR/L, HPCS                       2020-2022