Research

RESEARCH BACKGROUND

It is critical for occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech language pathology professionals who use hippotherapy as a treatment tool/strategy to base their treatment planning on evidence-based practice. Evidenced-based practice is “the integration of best research evidence (when available) with clinical expertise and patient values” (Sackett et al., 1996, p.312).

The evidence for incorporating hippotherapy into occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech language pathology treatment continues to evolve nationally and internationally representing a diverse range of theoretical perspectives, therapeutic techniques, and outcome measures.

The AHA Inc. research committee has developed a bibliography and reference list of peer-reviewed published papers that specifically refer to the inclusion of equine movement in occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech language pathology services.  The list contains 8 systematic reviews, 98 peer reviewed articles, and 11 peer reviewed case studies.

To view the AHA Inc. Bibliography and Reference List click here 

Various well-established theories and therapeutic principles help to guide how therapists incorporate equine movement into their treatment sessions, most notably: dynamic systems theory, motor learning principles, and strategies related to sensory processing. Therefore, in addition the AHA Inc. Bibliography and Reference List above, a large body of research supports these underlying theories and therapeutic principles related to hippotherapy. Further, there is a growing body of research tied to human-animal interactions. Professionals may also wish to consider this larger body of evidence when making clinical decisions.

 

Resources and Considerations for Evaluating Research in Evidence-Based Practice:

 

Supporting research:

The American Hippotherapy Association Inc. supports further research on the inclusion of hippotherapy in occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech language pathology services.  AHA, Inc. created a conceptual framework in 1997 to (a) provide therapists with a theoretical basis for the utilization of hippotherapy for improved function, (b) promote effective clinical problem-solving, and (c) generate hypotheses for scientific research.  The current conceptual framework is based on motor learning principles, dynamic systems theory, and sensory processing strategies.

In published papers, full transparency in reporting study details, and clarity in terminology, are essential for others to assess, reproduce, and extend scientific findings.  To promote clarity and consistency in research, AHA Inc. has developed the following resources:

 

For more information about research, contact the AHA Inc. Research Committee [email protected]