Meet the Hippotherapy Team: Part 1 – Introduction

According to the American Hippotherapy Association, The term hippotherapy refers to how physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech-language pathology professionals apply best practice to create functional change in the patient by skillfully directing equine movement imparted to the patient to engage the patient’s neuro, sensory and movement systems. Integrated with other neuro/sensorimotor techniques, hippotherapy is part of the patient’s plan of care.

Hippotherapy is a physical, occupational, and speech-language therapy treatment strategy which utilizes equine movement as part of an integrated intervention program to achieve functional outcomes.  Equine movement provides multidimensional movement, which is variable, rhythmic and repetitive.  Hippotherapy is an effective treatment strategy used by occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech language pathologists to address a wide variety of therapy goals and objectives.

Therapy using equine movement can only be provided by physical, occupational and speech therapy professionals, and should not be confused with adaptive riding (sometimes refereed to as therapeutic riding).

A hippotherapy team in action

Hippotherapy requires a team.  The team is made up of specially trained people and horses.  In order produce the best results, each member of the hippotherapy team plays an important role.  The team is made up of:

  • The therapist (must be a licensed physical, occupational or speech therapist)
  • The horse
  • The horse handler
  • The side walker

Staff/volunteers tend to horses before and after therapy sessions

Hippotherapy is a labor intensive treatment strategy.  In addition to the members of the hippotherapy team, many other people are also involved in:

  • The training of the horse
  • The care of the horse
  • The grooming of the horse
  • Warming up the horse
  • Preparing the horse for the session
  • Taking care of the horse following a session
  • The training of the horse handlers and side-walkers
  • The scheduling of the team
  • The preparation and maintenance of the facility

Because of this, most therapists using hippotherapy as a treatment strategy have strict cancellation policies to ensure that all members of the team are given sufficient notice when a session is canceled.

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 2 of this series to learn about what makes a good therapist for hippotherapy.

© 2012 – 2015, Tina M. Rocco, M.A. CCC-SLP, HPCS. All rights reserved.

About Tina M. Rocco, M.A. CCC-SLP, HPCS

Tina M. Rocco, M.A. CCC-SLP, HPCS is a Licensed Speech Language Pathologist in New York, Vermont and Arkansas. She holds a Certificate of Clinical Competency (CCC) from the American Speech Language and Hearing Association and is a board certified Hippotherapy Clinical Specialist (HPCS). She trained in PROMPT, DIRFloortime, The SOS Approach to feeding, Hippotherapy, Animal Assisted Therapy, LAMP and TEACCH. In addition, Ms. Rocco has experience providing speech and language therapy using teletherapy. Ms. Rocco is the owner of Speech Language Pathology in Motion, Located on Long Island, in Islandia and Hauppauge NY. To learn more about her practice, visit and become a fan on Facebook at
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One Response to Meet the Hippotherapy Team: Part 1 – Introduction

  1. Pingback: Meet the Hippotherapy Team: Part 2 – The Therapist | The Blog

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