Comparing Hippotherapy & Therapeutic Riding

                  Hippotherapy vs. Therapeutic Riding

Hippotherapy is NOT a horseback riding lesson.  It IS Physical, Occupational or Speech Therapy delivered by a licensed, credentialed therapist, along with a team including a horse handler and side walker.  The movement of the horse is used as a treatment tool.   Therapeutic riding is recreational horseback riding lessons adapted to individuals with disabilities.

Hippotherapy is completed by a professional therapist (occupational therapist, physical therapist or speech language pathologist) in conjunction with a horse handler and a specially screened and trained therapy horse. Therapeutic riding is completed by a horseback riding instructor in conjunction with volunteers.

The goal of Hippotherapy is for professional treatment to improve neurological functioning in cognition, communication, body movement, organization and attention levels.  


In therapeutic riding, the emphasis is on proper riding position and rein skills, not functional therapeutic goals.  
In Hippotherapy, the treating therapist continually assesses and modifies therapy based on the patient's responses.

Because therapeutic riding is an adaptive sport, and NOT therapy, it is not covered by insurance.
Insurance should pay for speech, physical,  or occupational therapy in which Hippotherapy is utilized as a strategy in a patient's treatment plan.

About Hippotherapy

Hippotherapy As A Treatment Strategy

Hippotherapy is a physical, occupational, and speech-language therapy treatment strategy that utilizes equine movement as part of an integrated intervention program    to achieve functional outcomes.  Hippotherapy is provided by certified professionals in their respective fields:  Speech Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Occupational Therapy.


Using the horse as a tool in treatment sessions provides the patient with a dynamic base of support, while the movement from the horse provides well-modulated sensory input impacting all sensory systems, which is essential for individuals with disabilities. Equine movement is an excellent tool for increasing trunk strength and control, improving balance, and improving motor planning.  The gait of a horse is remarkably similar to the normal gait of a human; therefore, the patient sitting astride the horse receives input similar to the human gait.  Equine movement impacts the patient's postural control, sensory systems and motor planning, which facilitates 
coordination and timing, grading of responses, respiratory control, sensory integration skills, and attentional skills.


During a speech therapy session, the speech-language pathologist is able to use equine movement to facilitate the physiologic systems that support speech and language. When combined with other standard speech-language intervention strategies, the speech-language pathologist is able generate effective remediation of communication disorders and promote functional communication outcomes.