Meet the Hippotherapy Team: Part 3 – The Horse

This is part 3 of a 5 part series about the hippotherapy team.  In Part 1 we learned that there are many people involved in making hippotherapy sessions possible, and that each member of the hippotherapy team plays an important role.  In Part 2 we learned that The therapist is the leader of the hippotherapy team and about the importance of finding an qualified physical, occupational or speech therapist.  As a reminder, only physical, occupational and speech therapy professionals can provide therapy using horses.

The therapist is responsible to choose an appropriate horse for each patient when incorporating hippotherapy into a therapy session.  Therapists are not able to provide high quality therapy using equine movement without the right horse.

In this article we will learn about the critical role that horse choice plays in the therapy session, and the many factors a therapist must consider when choosing a horse for use in physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech therapy treatment.

Temperament:  Horses are generally wonderful animals to work with, however not every horse has the temperament needed to be a great therapy horse.  Horse temperaments are sometimes measured on a scale of 1 to 10, or sometimes on a scale of 1 to 5. In both cases, a rating of 1 indicates an extremely calm, cool demeanor, while the higher number indicates the opposite — what horse people typically refer to as “hot.” On a 10-point scale, then, a rating of 1 to 4 would indicate a fairly calm horse, while 6 to10 would be a horse with a more excitable demeanor. A number 5 places the horse somewhere in the middle, or “warm.” On a 5-point scale, number 3 would be the mid-point indicator between the two extremes.  Therapy horses generally should have a temperament of 1-3 n a 10 point scale and 1-2 on a 5 point scale.  The horse that is chosen should be calm, but NOT lazy.  Impulsion and a willingness to move forward at the walk are critical traits of a good horse for hippotherapy.

Conformation: When examining horses for conformation, it is important to break things down into key principles to avoid becoming overwhelmed when putting the overall picture together. There are five main criteria to evaluate when examining a horse’s conformation: balance, structural correctness, way of going, muscling, and breed/sex character (also known as type).

Balance is essential for both quality of movement and performance in any event, and is determined by the horse’s bone structure. Balance refers to equal distribution of muscling and weight from the front of the horse to the back of the horse, from its top to its bottom and from side to side. However, balance is not determined by the horse’s weight but instead by proper angles and proportions of different parts of the body. In other words, a horse can be light bodied or heavy bodied and still be balanced if its bone structure allows for equal distribution of that weight. Proper balance enables the horse to carry itself in a manner to allow for easy maneuverability, greater power and smoother movement.

Structural correctness is critical for soundness as well as correct and clean movement. This is determined by proper structure and alignment of bone, particularly pertaining to the legs. Structural correctness is tied very closely to balance and influences the way a horse moves.

Way of going, also known as tracking, refers to the way the horse moves. The horse is evaluated both for cleanness and quality of movement.

Muscling is also a consideration when evaluating the horse, though not nearly as important as balance and structural correctness. The quantity, quality and distribution of the muscle are evaluated when looking at the horse from its sides, front and back.

Breed and sex character (i.e., “type”) refers to how well a horse represents its particular breed and sex. Most breeds have unique qualities by which they can be identified. Judging a horse by its type refers to judging how well it resembles the ideal horse of that breed. This may or may not be important depending on the expectations of the horse. Horses competing in many performance events do not necessarily have to represent a breed or sex well to be competitive. However, for horses competing in halter events this criteria is important.

Confidence: During a session, a therapist may choose to use varying equipment, toys, games and activities.  Horses must be confident and not become upset by items used in a therapy session, or equipment such as wheel chairs and canes.

Movement:  The movement of the horse is critical for an effective session.  The horse should have a high quality walk.  She horse should be able to move freely at the walk, trot and canter in both directions without evidence of lameness.  Horses with “lameness” issues, arthritis, or other soundness issues and horses who are not fit are not suitable for hippotherapy.  Most frequently, therapy sessions only require the horse to walk.  At times, this leads people to think older horses with arthritic changes, or horses who are only sound at the walk are still suitable for hippotherapy.  In the majority of cases this is not accurate.  Horses who do not move freely do not provide quality input to the patient, and will decrease the therapeutic benefits of incorporating equine movement into treatment.

A good horse for hippotherapy is not easy to find.  Therapists must carefully consider many factors when choosing an equine partner for use in physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech therapy sessions.  A good therapy horse with quality movement is worth it’s weight in gold.

Speech Language Pathology in Motion is a private practice located in Hauppauge and Islandia NY.  Visit our website to learn more about us:

Posted in Equine Assisted Therapy, Hippotherapy, The Hippotherapy Team | 2 Comments

Treatment of Motor Speech Disorders Using Hippotherapy and PROMPT

Motor speech disorders, such as Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS), can be difficult to treat and can be extremely frustrating for patients and their families.  Often, children and adults with motor speech disorders know what they want to say, but have difficulty saying sounds, syllables, and words to express their thoughts and feelings.

In the case of CAS, this difficulty is this is not because of a muscle weakness or paralysis.  The problem is related to difficulty planning to move the body parts (e.g., lips, jaw, tongue) needed to produce speech.  The child knows what he or she wants to say, but his/her brain has difficulty coordinating the muscle movements necessary to say those words.   As you can imagine, this can be very frustrating.

Treatment of motor speech disorders depends on the severity, however research shows the children with motor speech disorders have more success when they receive frequent and intensive treatment.

The focus of intervention for motor speech disorders is on improving the planning, sequencing, and coordination of muscle movements for speech production.

Feedback from a number of senses, such as tactile “touch” cues and visual cues (e.g., watching him/herself in the mirror) as well as auditory feedback, is often helpful. With this multi-sensory feedback, the child can more readily repeat syllables, words, sentences and longer utterances to improve muscle coordination and sequencing for speech.

Hippotherapy is a wonderful motor and sensory activity

Speech therapy session incorporating equine movement

Speech therapy incorporating equine movement (also referred to as hippotherapy) is effective for some patients with CAS.  The movement of the horse helps to organize the sensory systems which in turn impacts upon the motor systems.  Speech therapy incorporating equine movement (hippotherapy) helps to improve motor planning deficits (such as those observed in apraxia of speech).   As a result of organization of the sensory systems and coordination of the musculature of the face and mouth a decrease in drooling and an increase in speech is often noted during and following hippotherapy. 

PROMPT (C) therapy has also been shown to be effective in the treatment in motor speech disorders.  PROMPT (Prompts for Restructuring Oral Muscular Phonetic Targets) takes into account all the different ways we use our bodies including: sensory, perception, cognition, ideation, planning and action.

Speech Language Pathology in Motion, located in Hauppauge and Islandia NY is able to combine both of these strategies to help clients with motor speech disorders such as CAS to overcome their challenges.  To learn more visit our website at

Posted in Articulation and Phonology, Hippotherapy, PROMPT Therapy, Speech and Language Development, Speech and Language Therapy, Speech Language Pathology in Motion | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

5 Super-Cool Speech and Language Activities to Get You Through a Hot Summer!

Hot weather can make it difficult to find things to do to keep children both busy and cool during the summer months.  Here are 5 activities that can be used to both entertain and cool off your little ones as well as help them practice speech and language skills.  These activities are so much fun that your little one won’t even realize they are working on developing important skills while doing them!

1.  Home made ice pops:  Cooking activities are always a great way to work on speech and language skills.  They require children to follow directions in sequential order, and are a wonderful way to work on concepts such as wet/dry, empty/full, some/all/none, and hot/cold.  You can work on the verbs pour, mix, peel, and cut as well as vocabulary pertaining to the ingredients and tools being used (spoon, freezer, fruit/vegetables, shapes and sizes of the ingredients, the possibilities are endless).  These treats can also be used to sneak some extra nutrition into children who are picky eaters.  Fruit, yogurt, honey, peanut butter and even vegetables can be blended into the ice pop mix!  Check out these 10 Delicious Homemade Ice Pop recipes:

2.  Water play: Water play is a fun way for children to use everyday toys in a new way.  Water play activities can be set up in a variety of ways including:

  • Wash the baby activity- It’s bath time for your child’s favorite doll!  Work on concepts such as wet/dry, and clean/dirty, identifying and labeling body parts, following directions, requesting, pretend play skills and more.
  • Play with cups, rocks, animal and food toys and so on- The items you choose to are up to you and are limitless.  You can choose items in a particular theme to work on vocabulary concepts (i.e. animal toys), or items that will help your child work on concepts such as sink/float, empty/full, heavy/light, size concepts and so on!  Have your child follow directions with the items (i.e. put the elephant in the red cup, pour some water in the blue cup).  Have your child answer questions about the items (i.e. “What else can you use a cup for?”, “Where does an elephant live?”, “Does an apple fly?”).  Turn this into a turn taking activity by providing a fishing pole or net to “catch” the toys with.  Talk about each item!

3.  Car wash activity- Have the child wash toy cars (or maybe even the real car) and practice concepts such as wet/dry, clean/dirty and follow directions (i.e. wash the red car first, then the blue car).  You can also work on concepts such as top/bottom, front/back, sides and under.  Turn this activity into a turn taking activity with a peer by only providing 1 sponge.  Talk about vocabulary words related to the activity: sponge, doors, handle, tire, trunk, soap, hose, etc.

4.  Seashell fun- These activities can be done outdoors on a day that is not too hot, or indoors in the AC!  Go on a seashell hunt to practice speech and language skills.  Place pictures targeting new vocabulary words or speech sounds on the inside or on each shell.  Hide the shells around the backyard or around the house.  Have your child label, answer questions about, or practice the sounds in each pictured word.  You can also use this activity to improve your child’s ability to listen to directions, or to give directions to others.  To do this, hide one shell at a time and give clue about it’s location (i.e. “it is in a room where we cook” or “it is between the truck and the dollhouse”).  Then have the child hide it and give you clues.

When you are finished with the seashell hunt activity, you can use the shells for another language based activity!  You can use them for art an art project.  The project can target goals such as following directions, or color concepts and size concepts (i.e. “paint the big shell blue and the small shell yellow”). You can also glue shells together to make animals and other designs.  Have your child talk about and answer questions about their design.  Take a look at this seashell fish activity from Crafts By Amanda!

5. Water balloon toss- A water balloon toss is an excellent way to work on joint attention skills, turn taking, gaining attention and making eye contact.  This activity can be done by 2 or more people.  Have each person gain the attention of another person in the circle before tossing the balloon by calling their name and making eye contact with them before throwing the balloon.  If the child forgets to tell someone they are going to throw the balloon they might not catch it, and if they don’t make eye contact with others when their name is called they might get wet.  You can add additional speech and language practice to this activity by putting things on the balloons:

  • Letters- Have the child think of a word that starts with whatever letter is on the balloon.  You can make it more challenging by having the child think of a word that ends with the letter, or has the letter in the middle of the word.
  • Words- You can practice sight words, rhyming,  or targeted speech sounds during the water balloon toss by simply writing words on the balloons.  For sight words have the child read the word aloud before throwing the balloon (as seen here).  For rhyming have the child come up with a word that rhymes with the word on the balloon before each toss.  For articulation practice have the child say the words 5x before throwing the balloon.
  • Pictures- You can practice new vocabulary words by putting pictures on the balloons.  You can either draw them on the balloons, or tape them on.

What other hot weather speech and language activities can you think of?  Share them in the comments!

Speech Language Pathology in Motion is located in Hauppauge and Islandia NY.  Visit our website to learn more about us:

Posted in Articulation and Phonology, Auditory Processing Disorders, Expressive Language, Feeding Skills, Home Practice Ideas for Speech and Language, Pragmatic Language and Social Skills, Receptive Language, Speech and Language Development | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Why a Long Island Speech Therapist Incorporates Movement and Sensory Activities into Speech Therapy Sessions

Sensory Play During Hippotherapy

Many complex processes contribute to a child’s ability to speak, including motor learning, motor planning, sensory processing and sensory integration.  The production of a single syllable requires the participation of 8-10 body parts and the coordinated action of 70 muscles.

Because speech is a complex motor task involving so many different muscles and body parts, it is important the entire body be addressed.  Inadequate trunk control, instability at the shoulder girdle, and poor stability in the head, neck and jaw can all negatively impact speech production.

Hippotherapy is a wonderful motor and sensory activity

Recognizing that speech is a movement task means we must also recognize the importance of an intact sensory processing system, because the ability to move well requires feedback to the brain from the sensory systems.  When any part of the sensory system is not functioning appropriately we can see deficits in movement and function.  In traditional speech therapy, the visual and auditory systems are often provided with input.  There are other important systems that are often overlooked in traditional speech therapy sessions.  These systems make large contributions to the coordination of movement patterns for speech.  These systems are:

  • The Tactile System: This system provides information to aid in visual processing, motor planning, body awareness, cognitive learning, emotional security and social skills (Kranowitz, 1998).  “The sense of touch is critical in helping us function in the environment on a daily basis” (Ayres, 1986). Constant tactile stimulation is necessary for all individuals; it has the ability to keep us organized and functioning (Kranowitz, 1998). Poor tactile discrimination is a result of an immature ability to discriminate between tactile experiences and remembering past experiences.  Children with dysfunction of the tactile system may over–react to touch and are often described as “tactually defensive”.  Other children who do not register enough information are referred to as “sensory seeking”. In either case, information is not processed optimally, and motor planning for speech production may be affected.
  • The Proprioceptive System: The proprioceptive system is the unconscious awareness of one’s own body position relative to other body parts and to the environment (Yacks et. al, 1998). This system provides information that helps the individual integrate touch and movement (Kranowitz, 1998). This sensory modality provides information about the relative position of one part of the body in relation to another (e.g. lower jaw and upper jaw). As children move, sensory receptors located throughout the muscles and joints feed information to the brain about position, and this information plays an important role in planning movements for speech production.  Children who are under–reactive may not receive the sufficient input for the development of well–controlled movements.
  • The Vestibular System: The vestibular system in the brain allows us to stand upright, maintain balance, move through space, and process visual information about the environment while we are in motion.  The vestibular system is a complex sensory system, integrating information from the vestibular organs in the inner ear, the eyes, the neck and shoulder muscles, the fingertips and palms of the hand, the processors on the soles of the feet, hip and leg joints, and the jaw muscles and facial muscles.   A child with vestibular and language problems benefits greatly from therapy that simultaneously addresses both types of dysfunction.  Speech and language therapists report that just putting the child in a swing during treatment can have remarkable results. The vestibular system influences motor control and motor planning that are necessary to use the fine muscles in the throat, tongue, lips, and jaw to produce intelligible speech. Because the vestibular system also is crucial for effective auditory processing, the child with vestibular dysfunction frequently develops problems with language.  The vestibular, auditory and visual systems work together as they process sensations of movement and sound and light. These sensations are closely intertwined, as they all begin to be processed and/or influenced by receptors of the ear. Vision is also an important component of the vestibular system. About twenty percent of visual neurons respond to vestibular stimulation (e.g. when spinning, head shaking, or rocking). The auditory system is also highly involved in vestibular functions. The vestibular and auditory nerves join in the auditory canal and become the eighth cranial nerve of the brain. Anything that disrupts auditory information can also affect vestibular functioning.

Hippotherapy can be combined with PROMPT Therapy

All of the sensory systems must work well and work together.  Dysfunction in any one of the sensory systems can result in deficits in functioning and in communication.  All of the systems interact together in order for us to think, move, comprehend and interpret the world around us.  We call this process of balancing and improving the communication between the input systems, sensory integration.

If we are able to organize the sensory systems we are better able to address deficits with motor planning.  In addition, when the sensory systems are functioning appropriately we are better able to process and learn information from our environment.

For these reasons, Speech Language Pathology in Motion incorporates movement and sensory activities into our therapy sessions as needed.  We also use specialized therapy techniques such as PROMPT Therapy and Hippotherapy to provide information to the visual, auditory, proprioceptive, tactile and vestibular systems.

To learn more about the services offered at Speech Language Pathology in Motion visit

Posted in Articulation and Phonology, Auditory Processing Disorders, Equine Assisted Therapy, Expressive Language, Hippotherapy, Oral Motor Skills, Pragmatic Language and Social Skills, PROMPT Therapy, Receptive Language, Speech and Language Development, Speech and Language Therapy, Speech Language Pathology in Motion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

6 Back to School Speech Therapy Tips for Parents

Summer is coming to an end, and a new school year is right around the corner!  To help your child start the year off right try using these tips:

  1. Prepare: As your child gets ready to head back to school it is a great time to help prepare him or her for what to expect.  Writing a social story about his or her new school schedule might help make things go smoother.  An example of a back to school social story can be found here.  It is best to use pictures that your child can relate to and that reflect his or her school.  The information in the story should pertain to your child. You can even use his or her name and picture throughout the story.  Include information about what will happen each day such as riding on the bus, and going to the cafeteria.  You should read the story with your child daily for the days or weeks leading up to the first day of school.  You can also read it for the first few weeks of school as your child is adjusting to the new classroom.  If you are not able to create a social story, talking with your child about school in a positive way and telling him/her what to expect is a good idea.  Visuals help.  Use pictures whenever possible.
  2. Contact and Communicate: Contact your child’s teacher and ask them for the contact information for the speech pathologist who is working with your child.  It is a good idea to make contact with your child’s therapist, and to keep in touch with the therapist throughout the year.  Writing in a notebook, e-mailing, making phone calls or attending meetings with the therapist are important and this contact and communication should take place regularly.
  3. Schedule: After a few weeks of school, contact the SLP and ask the therapist what your child’s schedule is for speech therapy.
  4. Check and Review: Pull out your child’s IEP and look over the goals. Make sure that they are still appropriate for your child.  Sometimes IEPs are made many months prior to the start of the school year.  Many children make developmental jumps during that time so they may have surpassed their goals or, some children may have regression over the summer and may need to re-learn skills that were previously mastered.  If you feel changes need to be made to the IEP, contact your child’s teacher or SLP to schedule an IEP review.
  5. Select Goals for Home: Your child’s speech therapist will only be working with your child for a certain number of hours each week depending on his or her IEP.  It will significantly help your child’s progress if you are able to select one or more of the IEP goals to work on at home.  Speak with your child’s speech therapist to see which goals he or she is targeting in therapy and ask how you can help your child practice those skills at home.
  6. Collaborate:  If your child receives private speech therapy in addition to school based speech therapy, it is very important that you ask the therapists to collaborate.  Contact between the private speech therapist and the school based therapist will require that the parent give permission for both therapists to speak with each other.  Collaboration between parents, your child’s school based team and private therapists will help your child to make progress faster and will allow all people involved in your child’s program (including parents) to brain storm and problem solve together to help your child succeed.

Have a great school year!

Speech Language Pathology in Motion is a private practice located in Hauppauge and Islandia NY.  Visit our website to learn more about us:

Posted in Speech and Language Therapy | 5 Comments

Creating Language Opportunities in Hippotherapy – Spring Theme

Hippotherapy is a wonderful speech and language treatment strategy.  Our spring themed speech and language activities were a lot of fun.  Most of the children did this activity for 2 sessions or more.  All of the kids had a great time and asked to do this activity again and again, some even asked about it again weeks later.  This also happened with our St. Patrick’s Day Theme Activity.

Many of these activities could have been done on foot, but they were really fun on horseback with horses dressed like bunnies!  Take a look:

Hippotherapy spring egg hunt rules

Eggs were hidden along the sensory integration track.  Some were empty, others had something inside.  They were used to work on the concepts empty and full.  The eggs that were full had items from the categories food, animals and toys and were used practice vocabulary and categorization skills, answering yes/no and “wh” questions and using adjectives.

The eggs were hidden in all different places to help patients work on prepositional terms. Some eggs were in, on, under, next to, between, behind, in front of things on the track. Eggs were often out of reach for the patients and the patients had to gain the attention of one of the people assisting with the hippotherapy session and ask them to help get the eggs. Eye contact and appropriate use of pragmatic language was facilitated.

Baskets and activity boxes were also hidden along the track. This basked contained a sorting activity using the concepts big/little or large/small. Different size eggs were placed in the basket.  Patients were asked to identify which eggs were big/small and follow 1-3 step directions containing the concepts big/little or large/small (“give me a small pink egg after you give me a big blue egg”, “open a small egg”). The children also practiced giving directions to others.  They also practiced the concept same/different (i.e. therapist held up an egg and said “Find an egg that is the same color”, “find an egg that is a different size”).  Each of the eggs had a baby chick inside.  Some of the chicks were big and others were little.

This activity station was used to address higher level speech and language skills. Children had to compare and contrast, describe, and follow directions. Children were asked to “Take 2 bunnies, talk about what is the same about them. What is different?”, then “take two toys that make noise. What is the same about them? What is different?”, and they were asked to choose a toy and describe it to others so they can guess what it is.

This activity was used to help children practice spring vocabulary words with a motivating sensory activity. Spring theme pictures were placed in the bag (bee, flower, umbrella, basket, eggs, bird, butterfly, etc), and the bag was filled with shaving cream and then sealed. The children had to move the shaving cream to find the hidden pictures.

This basked contained eggs that were either heavy or light. Children held eggs that were the SAME color and identified which one was heavy and which one was light. Children then opened the eggs to see what was inside.

This spring sensory station was a big hit. The box was filled with beans, a variety of bugs, spring animals, sparkly grass. The children got to explore the box, and were asked to answer yes/no and “wh” questions about the things they found inside. Children were also asked to follow 1-3 step directions.

Gigi, dressed like a bunny, greeting a child before his therapy session.

This little boy was excited to go on a egg hunt with his bunny horse!

Gigi showing her bunny ears to another little boy before his therapy session.

King made an adorable bunny too!

King looking adorable!

One more cute picture of Gigi!

Speech Language Pathology in Motion is a private practice located in Hauppauge and Islandia NY.  Visit our website to learn more about us:

Posted in Equine Assisted Therapy, Hippotherapy, Speech and Language Therapy, Speech Language Pathology in Motion | 4 Comments

Choosing a Therapist for Hippotherapy

When seeking a therapist to provide hippotherapy consider the following:

  • Do I want to work with an Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist, or a Speech Language Pathologist? The type of the therapist that you choose to work with should depend on what your or your child’s needs are.  Therapists who use hippotherapy as a treatment strategy work to improve functional skills and set therapy goals.  Patients are not taught horseback riding skills.  Many patients transition to riding lessons after meeting therapy goals.  To find a therapist in your area click here.  If you are seeking riding lessons rather then therapy it is best to contact an Adaptive Riding program (also known as a “Therapeutic Riding” Program) and work with a specially trained riding instructor.
  • How much experience does the therapist have in their field?  The equine environment and horses are an excellent addition to treatment sessions.  The therapist’s clinical skills and experience in diagnostics and treatment will carry over into this environment.  The therapist should have experience in their field and more specifically, in the area that you would like addressed.  For example, if you would like to work on sensory needs for your young child, it is best to choose an occupational therapist with training and experience in pediatrics and sensory integration therapy.  Using hippotherapy requires that the therapist understands the sensory, motor and communication impacts that equine movement will have on a patient.
  • Does the therapist have extensive experience in working with horses? Horses are animals with a mind of their own.  It is critical that the therapist providing hippotherapy have extensive experience in working with horses and understanding equine behavior.  Even the best therapy horses have “off days”.  It is crucial for the therapist to recognize when a horse is not comfortable and to be able to determine what the cause of the problem is and address it accordingly.  Therapists who do not have extensive experience working with horses must be sure to carefully select a knowledgeable horse handler who can help make decisions about the horse’s behavior.  This is important for the safety of all involved.  In addition to understanding equine behavior, the therapist  must have an extensive understanding of equine movement and be able to select horses based on how they move to most effectively treat their patients.  They must understand how to enhance this movement and explain this to their horse handler.  The horse essentially is a type of therapy “equipment”.  Therapists must be able to recognize when a horse is unsound, just as they should be able to recognize when their equipment in their clinic is not working well. Unsound horses create asymmetrical movement.  Hippotherapy is about the movement of the horse.  The therapist must identify when a horse is not moving correctly or not moving well.
  • Is the therapist trained by the American Hippotherapy Association?  What level of training has the therapist obtained in the area of hippotherapy?  The American Hippotherapy Association offers course work.  The courses include Level I Equine Skills, Level I Treatment Principals, Level II Equine Skills, Level II Treatment Principals, and a variety of concentrated topics such as Long Lining, and Business Aspects.   Therapists with extensive experience in hippotherapy may take the Hippotherapy Clinical Specialist exam.  Therapists who pass the exam demonstrate a high level of knowledge in the field of hippotherapy.  The exam tests the therapist knowledge and understanding of history, theory and research, horsemanship, movement science, application of hippotherapy principals, and program administration.  Therapists who pass this exam are considered to be “Board Certified Hippotherapy Clinical Specialists” and are allowed to use the credentials “HPCS” following their name.  A list of therapists who are Board Certified Hippotherapy Clinical Specialists can be found here.

To learn more about the therapist in the hippotherapy setting read our blog article Meet The Hippotherapy Team: Part 2- The Therapist

Speech Language Pathology in Motion is a private practice located in Hauppauge and Islandia NY.  Visit our website to learn more about us:

Posted in Equine Assisted Therapy, Hippotherapy, Speech and Language Therapy | Leave a comment

Creating Speech and Language Opportunities in Hippotherapy: St. Patrick’s Day Theme

This blog post is following a day of fun and exciting hippotherapy sessions.  The leprechauns were at the farm bright and early to create some fun speech and language activities for our patients on St. Patrick’s Day!  Boy did these activities get our patients talking!

Creating a hunt for shamrocks and sensory based activities was easy and fun.   There were many opportunities for speech and language practice and everyone including the staff and horses had a great time.

When doing activities such as these be sure to expose the horses to them before hand so they know what to expect!

Take a look at our St. Patrick’s Day speech and Language activities:

Shamrocks were placed around our sensory integration track which surrounds our 8 acre property.  Next to each shamrock there was a picture. Goals targeted: increasing vocabulary, increasing articulation skills, responding to yes/no questions, following directions, responding to “wh” questions, attending and following directions (when you see a shamrock tell your horse to stop), requesting help, and more!

Pictures next to the shamrocks were used to address a variety of speech and language goals including vocabulary, responding to questions (i.e. Is this coat for a boy?, Where can you buy a coat?, When do you wear a coat?, Why do you wear a coat?, is the coat next to or above the shamrock?), using attributes and description words (pink, soft, small, warm), and improving articulation.

Pictures next to the shamrocks used to address a variety of speech and language goals including vocabulary, responding to questions, using attributes and description words, and improving articulation.

Some of the shamrocks had toys attached to them. This toy was a type of view finder with different pictures inside. Goals targeted: Requesting help, vocabulary, asking and answering questions. Patients had to use language to ask someone to help them get the toy.

Find the hidden pictures! The pictures were hidden in a bin filled with split peas. Pictures were used to work on vocabulary goals, responding to and asking yes/no and “wh” questions and to work on the negation concept “not”. After they were found, the pictures were sorted into buckets for “green” and “not green”.

“Green” and “Not Green” buckets for sorting activity above.


Shaving Cream and green paint in a zip-lock bag.  Stickers were placed inside the bag.  Patients had to move the shaving cream around to find the hidden pictures.  They were asked to label and talk about what they saw.   Goals: articulation, vocabulary, using attributes, joint attention, gaining attention, requesting help. *Tip- if you have patients who will open the bag, seal it with tape!

This sensory bin contained rice, beans, macaroni, big and small gold coins and 1 lucky shamrock. The tricky leprechauns hid a snake in here too! Goals targeted: Size concepts big and small, counting with 1:1 correspondence, following directions.

Hidden in the shaving cream: gold coins, plastic bugs, a shamrock. This station was used to increase vocabulary, increase use of attributes, work on answering and asking yes/no and “wh” questions, and following directions.

The shaving cream station was messy but fun! Baby wipes and a bin to put garbage in was set up to minimize the mess! This was a favorite stop for many of the kids.

The last shamrock at the end of the trail. Patients got to choose a sticker and take a foam Shamrock home with them from inside the mailbox, but first they had to use their language to request help opening the mailbox and to choose a sticker! Goals targeted: vocabulary, gaining another person’s attention, requesting help.

Sometimes messy is fun!

The members of the hippotherapy team, including the horse dressed for the occasion, creating additional speech and language opportunities.  Everyone had a great time!

To see more pictures and to see some of our patients enjoying the activities take a look at our Facebook page!

Speech Language Pathology in Motion is a private practice located in Hauppauge and Islandia NY.  Visit our website to learn more about us:

Posted in Articulation and Phonology, Equine Assisted Therapy, Expressive Language, Hippotherapy, Pragmatic Language and Social Skills, Receptive Language, Speech and Language Development, Speech and Language Therapy, Speech Language Pathology in Motion | 3 Comments

Meet the Hippotherapy Team: Part 2 – The Therapist

This is part 2 of a 5 part series about the hippotherapy team.  In Part 1 we learned that there are many people involved in making physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech therapy sessions incorporating equine movement (hippotherapy) possible, and that each member of the team plays an important role.  The therapist is the “leader” of the team.

Hippotherapy can be provided by the following therapists:

  • Occupational therapists (OT)
  • Occupational therapy assistants (OTA) under the direction of an occupational therapist
  • Physical therapists (PT)
  • Physical therapy assistants (PTA) under the direction of a physical therapist
  • Speech-Language Pathologists (SLP)

These therapists may incorporate hippotherapy as a treatment strategy as long as they are working within their scope of practice and in accordance with the laws and regulations in their state.  Hippotherapy should not be confused with adaptive riding (sometimes referred to as therapeutic horseback riding).

While there is no requirement, it is strongly recommended that the therapist have training from the American Hippotherapy Association prior to incorporating hippotherapy into their sessions.  Therapists may obtain Level I and  Level II training from The American Hippotherapy Association (AHA).  AHA also offers many other courses to teach therapists about incorporating hippotherapy in their practices.

In addition to training in the area of hippotherapy, it is also recommended that the therapist have at least one year of clinical experience prior to using hippotherapy as a strategy.

Physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech and language pathologists who have been practicing their profession for at least three years (6,000 hours) and have 100 hours of hippotherapy practice within the three years may take the Hippotherapy Clinical Specialist Examination through the American Hippotherapy Certification Board.  OTAs and PTAs are not eligible to sit for the examination.

Therapists who pass the exam have demonstrated a high level of knowledge in the field of hippotherapy and use the initials “HPCS” after their name to indicate that they are “Hippotherapy Professional Clinical Specialists.”  HPCS is a designation of therapists who have advanced knowledge and experience in hippotherapy.  This is the highest qualification a therapist can obtain in the area of hippotherapy.

In the hippotherapy setting the therapist is responsible for:

  • Selecting a horse which is appropriate in size, temperament, width, and movement for their patients.  The horse is carefully selected by the therapist for the quality of it’s movement.  The horse must be physically and mentally sound, fit and healthy.
  •  Selecting a highly skilled horse handler to ensure that they are able to effectively control and direct the horses movement under the direction of the therapist.
  • Selecting an appropriate side walker
  • Selecting or providing an appropriate location for the hippotherapy sessions.
  • Determining if there are any health concerns or other reasons why a patient should not participate in hippotherapy
  • Training, or ensuring that training has been provided for the horse, horse handler and side walkers.  Training includes how to respond in emergency situations.
  • Directing and leading the hippotherapy session
  • Communicating with the team
  • Communicating with the patient and his/her family
  • Working within their scope of practice

Families seeking physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech therapy incorporating hippotherapy should select the therapist that they choose carefully.  Be sure to find a licensed therapist with training and experience in this niche area of practice.

Speech Language Pathology in Motion, located in Hauppauge and Islandia NY offers hippotherapy as a speech therapy treatment strategy.  Visit our website to learn more:

This blog is part of a 5 part series on the hippotherapy team.  The hippotherapy team is led by the therapist.  Look for part 3 of this series to learn about the therapy horse.

Posted in Equine Assisted Therapy, Hippotherapy, Speech Language Pathology in Motion, The Hippotherapy Team | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

What is a Speech and Language Screening?

Speech and Language Screenings are a wonderful tool to determine if a child is developing within the “average” range when compared to other children his or her age.  Screening tests identify conditions that might need further assessment and are an important part of well-child health care.

Often at a Speech and Language Screening the following abilities are assessed:

  • Receptive Language
  • Expressive Language
  • Articulation and Phonology
  • Voice
  • Resonance
  • Pragmatic Language Skills
  • Fluency

A  standardized assessment tool is used to conduct the screening.  Screenings are non-invasive.  The children will perceive what they are doing as play.  The screening asks questions and gives the child things to observe, think about, and then respond to verbally.

Screenings are often performed quickly and are completed in approximately 20 minutes.

Children who do not pass the screening will be recommended to receive further assessment and evaluation.

Speech and language development is important for learning and communicating with others. Early assessment and treatment of speech and language delays and disorders makes a big difference in prognosis.

Speech Language Pathology in Motion periodically offers FREE Speech and Language Screenings.  Contact us for more information by phone at (631) 479-3393 ex 3, or by e-mail at

Posted in Articulation and Phonology, Expressive Language, Oral Motor Skills, Pragmatic Language and Social Skills, Receptive Language, Speech and Language Development | 3 Comments