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(Equine-assisted therapy)

Description of Hippotherapy:

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.

Therapy Professionals:

  • Occupational therapists

  • Certified occupational therapy assistants

  • Physical therapists

  • Physical therapy assistants

  • Speech-language pathologists

  • Speech-language pathology assistants

  • Psychiatrist


If patient has one of these health problems writing below, hypotherapy cannot be applied:

  • Active mental health disorders that would be unsafe (fire setting, suicidal, animal abuse, violent behavior, etc.)

  • Acute herniated disc with or without nerve root compression

  • Chiari II malformation with neurologic symptoms

  • Atlantoaxial instability (AAI) – a displacement of the C1 vertebra in relation to the C2 vertebra as seen on x-ray or computed tomography of significant amount (generally agreed to be greater than 4 mm for a child) with or without neurologic signs as assessed by a qualified physician; this condition is seen with diagnoses which have ligamentous laxity such as Down syndrome or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis

  • Coxa arthrosis – degeneration of the hip joint; the femoral head is flattened and functions like a hinge joint versus a ball and socket joint. Sitting on the horse puts extreme stress on the joint

  • Grand mal seizures – uncontrolled by medications

  • Hemophilia with a recent history of bleeding episodes

  • Indwelling urethral catheters

  • Medical conditions during acute exacerbations (rheumatoid arthritis, herniated nucleus pulposis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, etc.)

  • Open wounds over a weight-bearing surface

  • Pathologic fractures without successful treatment of the underlying pathology (e.g. severe osteoporosis, osteogenesis imperfecta, bone tumor, etc.)

  • Tethered cord with symptoms

  • Unstable spine or joints including unstable internal hardware


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