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.

Research Resources

AHA, Inc. Bibliography and Reference List 

AHA, Inc. Research Matrix

Peer Reviewed Journals

Outcome Measures

Measuring outcomes is a vital component of therapy practice. They are important to monitor progress, impact clinical decisions surrounding interventions, and can provide the rehabilitation field an opportunity to describe, compare and determine best case management.

The use of standardized tests and measures at initial assessments, establish the baseline status of the patient/client, providing a means to quantify change in the patient’s/client’s functioning. There are 4 basic types of measures:

  • Self-report measures, which include questionnaires completed by the client
  • Performance-based measures, which include many standardized tests, where a score is awarded for skill performance
  • Observer-reported measures include questionnaires completed by a caregiver
  • Clinician-reported measures are administered by the therapist, and include I measures such as ROM, Strength, posture, quality of movement, etc.

Standard medical framework for organizing client ability/disability uses the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF).  According to the Centers for Disease Control, the ICFR is a “is a framework for describing and organizing information on functioning and disability. It provides a standard language and a conceptual basis for the definition and measurement of health and disability.”  (

In the ICF, functioning and disability are multi-dimensional concepts, relating to:

  • Body functions and structures of people, and impairments thereof (functioning at the level of the body);
  • Activities of people (functioning at the level of the individual) and the activity limitations they experience;
  • Participation or involvement of people in all areas of life, and the participation restrictions they experience (functioning of a person as a member of society);and
  • Environmental factors which affect these experiences (and whether these factors are facilitators or barriers).

The use of industry accepted outcome measures is a professional obligation and supports therapy practice.  Outcome measures can assess any of these different areas of the ICF.  Client improvements in the function or participation realm may be more meaningful and important for reimbursement.

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:


Other Resources 


The following is a list of organizations that provide funding for research. AHA, Inc. is not affiliated with these organizations.

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