According to the American Hippotherapy Association, "the term 'hippotherapy' refers to how occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech-language pathology professionals use evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning in the purposeful manipulation of equine movement to engage sensory, neuromotor, and cognitive systems to achieve functional outcomes. In conjunction with the affordances of the equine environment and other treatment strategies, hippotherapy is part of a patient's integrated plan of care."
The term hippotherapy originates from the Greek word, “hippos” meaning horse (or equine).
When combined with other speech-language treatment strategies, the use of equine movement in treatment offers a highly effective means of addressing speech and language deficits through facilitation of the physiological systems that support speech and language functioning. To learn more about the use of hippotherapy in speech click here.
Equine Movement can be utilized in speech therapy to help improve receptive and expressive language skills, oral motor planning abilities (oral and verbal apraxia of speech), articulation and phonology, swallowing, pragmatic language skills, voice, and fluency. When combined with other speech-language intervention strategies, the speech-language pathologist is able generate effective remediation of communication disorders and promote functional communication outcomes.
The movement produced by the horses walk simultaneously produces the following movement in the patient:
It is not possible to replicate this movement in a clinic.
The farm is a language rich environment with endless opportunities for receptive, expressive and pragmatic language practice, articulation and phonology practice, and much more.
In addition to the physical and sensory benefits of speech therapy incorporating equine movement, being around and working with the horses is highly motivating for many of our patients.
Speech Language Pathology in Motion follows the “Best Practice Guidelines” of the American Hippotherapy Association and of the American Speech Language and Hearing Association. It is considered best practice for hippotherapy to be included as part of a total plan of care. This means that we do not offer hippotherapy a "stand alone" or "separate service". It is offered in conjunction with other speech therapy treatment strategies in order to provide the best possible results for our clients. Practicing skills in multiple environments and during various activities supports generalization of skills and helps our clients make progress faster. Patients who receive speech therapy incorporating hippotherapy at Speech Language Pathology in Motion are also seen in our Hauppauge clinic and in onsite treatment areas at the Islandia location as part of their treatment plan. It is at the therapist’s discretion how often and how long hippotherapy is used, if at all, during each speech therapy session.
When determining if hippotherapy is an appropriate speech therapy treatment technique for each client, the speech language pathologist looks at the patient as a whole, taking their unique cognitive, sensory, motor and perceptual abilities into consideration.
While many children and adults benefit from speech therapy incorporating hippotherapy, it is not for everyone. The use of hippotherapy in treatment may be contraindicated for some patients for medical reasons (see our FAQ page for a list of possible precautions and contraindications). Based on information from your doctor and your case history we will determine if there are any contraindications and precautions present.
Hippotherapy is NOT a separate type of therapy. Equine movement is incorporated as part of a speech therapy (or occupational/physical therapy) treatment plan and is not/should not be offered as a "stand alone service". Reputable therapy practices incorporate a variety of treatment strategies and do not offer hippotherapy (or any other strategy) as the only treatment approach.
To learn about the American Hippotherapy Association's current position on the use of Equine Movement by OT's, PT's and SLP's in the United States, click here.
For resources related to the use of hippotherapy in treatment visit the American Hippotherapy Association resources page.
According to the American Hippotherapy Association (AHA), speech language pathology, occupational therapy and physical therapy professionals are the only personnel who have the prerequisite knowledge and training needed to use hippotherapy effectively as a treatment strategy.
The highest credential one can obtain in hippotherapy is to become a Board Certified Hippotherapy Clinical Specialist (HPCS).
To become a board certified Hippotherapy Clinical Specialist is a lengthy process requiring the successful completion of the Hippotherapy Clinical Specialist Certification Exam.
Only physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech and language pathologists who have been practicing in their profession for at least three years (6,000 hours) and have 100 hours of hippotherapy practice within the three years prior to application may take the exam. Prior to taking the HPCS examination, the following coursework is recommended:
Speech Language Pathology in Motion is proud to be an American Hippotherapy Association facility member and adheres to the AHA inc.'s Best Practice Guidelines.
Gigi's nomination video for the American Hippotherapy Association Therapy Horse of the Year Award!
During speech therapy treatment incorporating Hippotherapy/Equine Movement, the speech language pathologist is assisted by a team.
Each member of the team plays an important role.
The team is made up of a specially trained:
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