Hippotherapy vs. Therapeutic Riding

What is the difference? And how do I know which one is most appropriate for my child?

Consider your child's specific needs:

  • Does your child require constant positioning to maintain sitting balance?
  • Does your child need frequent assistance to maintain attention or alertness levels?
  • Is you child under age 5?
  • Does your child have special medical needs that may require the additional knowledge and training from a licensed professional therapist?
  • Does your child have sensory integration dysfunction or frequent behavioral outbursts to
    sensory stimulus?
  • Does your child have specific fine or gross motor skills to work on?
  • Would your child benefit most from the horse's movement in private one-on-one sessions?

If you answered "yes" to any of the questions above, then hippotherapy may be the most appropriate choice for your child.

Comparing Hippotherapy & Therapeutic Riding

HippotherapyTherapeutic Riding

Physical, Occupational or Speech Therapy. The movement of the horse is a treatment tool.

Adapted recreational horseback riding lessons

Hippotherapy is not a horseback riding lesson. It is physical, occupational or speech therapy, which is prescribed by a physician and delivered by a team that includes a licensed, credentialed therapist.

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 professional horse handler and a specially screened and trained therapy horse.Therapeutic riding is completed by a professional horseback riding instructor in conjunction with volunteers.
There is direct hands-on participation by the therapist at all times.
In therapeutic riding, the individual is often taught riding lessons in a group format, which runs in "sessions". The instructor must respond to the group as a whole, in addition to fostering individual success.
The horse's movement is essential to assist in meeting therapy goals.
There is occasional hands-on assistance by the riding instructor and/or volunteers, but the instructor usually teaches from the center of the arena.
The goal of hippotherapy is for professional treatment to improve neurological functioning in cognition, body movement, organization and attention levels.
Horses used for therapeutic riding instruction have been screened to make sure they have the appropriate temperament for this job.
Hippotherapy is a one-on-one treatment and generally occurs year-round until the client meets discharge criteria.
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 client's responses.

Because therapeutic riding is an adaptive sport, NOT therapy, it is not covered by insurance.

Insurance should pay for physical, occupational or speech therapy in which hippotherapy is utilized.


Our Families

"We feel very blessed to have become a part of the TherAplay family of therapists, staff and other families."

Suzanne Adcook, TherAplay parent

"Brendan squels and claps when we pull into the entrance at TherAplay.  He's made so many gains since he started.  The horse is amazing."

Brendon's Mom, TherAplay parent

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