Phone: 866-782-6258


Lori Garone, PT, MA, HPCS

August 25, 2020



What is hippotherapy?  What are the benefits of using equine movement in your physical therapy treatment and which diagnoses would benefit from it?


The American Physical Therapy Association has recognized hippotherapy as a scope of practice as a tool/strategy/approach that can be utilized in treatment since the 1980s. This is a link that you can go to on the American Hippotherapy website to see the letter of endorsement. And just for clarity of conversation, I think it's really important, terminology being what it is that hippotherapy is not a profession. It's not a separate service. You're not a hippotherapist and you don't have a hippotherapy program. If you're practicing hippotherapy it may be in a private practice or it may be through a hospital system. However, it's just part of the plan of care and one of the tools. Also, many times people refer to it as equine therapy or equine assisted therapy and that terminology is old terminology, we don't use that anymore. As the horse is really not assisting the therapy because the clinical decision is made by the therapist. So the horse is our tool, just like we would use any other tool. Thus there is no time when the therapist stops doing their standard practice and starts doing hippotherapy or equine therapy. Basically just as you would incorporate any other tool into your practice to address the activity restrictions or participation limitations, that's how you would apply hippotherapy. So this is the actual description. We don't have a definition of what hippotherapy is because it's hard to define. 

The word "hippo" came from the Greek because they used the word hippo for horse in Greece. In the United States, our language base is Latin so we usually see equine or equestrian when it refers to a horse. This came from Germany originally and the word hippotherapy refers to how therapy professionals, PT, OT, and speech-language pathology professionals use evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning in the purposeful manipulation of the equine movement as a therapy tool meant to engage all the systems in the sensory, neuromotor and cognitive system to promote functional outcome.

According to the American Hippotherapy Association, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech-language pathology professionals use the horse's movement in treatment to improve the daily function of people with disabilities. Horses are unique in being able to provide symmetric, rhythmic and consistent input that the skilled therapist can use to address the client's movement and sensory needs

Some common diagnosis that benefit include: 

  • Apraxia
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders or Pervasive, Developmental Delay
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Cerebral Vascular Accident (stroke)
  • Cerebellar Ataxia
  • Cognitive Disorders
  • Developmental Delay
  • Downs Syndrome
  • Dysphasia
  • Dyspraxia
  • Genetic disorders
  • Muscular Dystrophies
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson Disease
  • Sensory Processing Disorders
  • Speech Delay
  • Spina Bifida
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Some of the changes that can be seen occur in the following:  

  • Postural Control and alignment
  • •Balance
  • •Coordination & Timing
  • •Acquisition of developing skills
  • •Gait
  • •Pelvic movement
  • •Body awareness
  • •Multi-sensory processing
  • •Righting reactions
  • •Motor planning
  • Mobility

For more information on Hippotherapy for Physical Therapy Professionals, please see our Overview of Hippotherapy for Physical Therapy Professionals course


lori garone

Lori Garone, PT, MA, HPCS

Lori Garone, PT, MS, HPCS, DCE is a Board-Certified Clinical Specialist in Hippotherapy and Director of Clinical Education at South University Virginia Beach PTA Program. She graduated in 1990 from Touro College of Health Sciences, Bachelor of Arts in Community Health, and Master of Science in Physical Therapy. Lori had a physical therapy private practice on Long Island, New York for approximately 30 years treating neuro- pediatric / adult patients.She represented the United States at the First Symposium of Physiotherapists and Riding Instructors in Surry England in 1991 and was Clinical Director of Milligan Hill at The Center for Discovery in Harris NY from 2001-2005. She also was Interim Executive Director and Therapy Services Director at NCEFT from 2005 -2007.

She has been the recipient of the 2010 Woman of the Year Distinguished Woman Award, Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York for the work done in the Health Care Industry, and the 2013 AHA Inc. Barbara Glasow Therapist of The Year Award for service incorporating hippotherapy into therapy. She has been serving on the AHA, Inc. Board from 1996- 2010 served as Vice President, Education Chairperson, Standards and Practice Chairperson, Nominating Committee, Conference Committees. She is presently continuing to serve of the AHA Inc. Board as Education Chairperson.

Related Courses

Overview of Hippotherapy for Physical Therapy Professionals
Presented by Lori Garone, PT, MA, HPCS
Recorded Webinar


Lori Garone, PT, MA, HPCS
Course: #3741Level: Introductory2 Hours
  'It was organized, informative and interesting'   Read Reviews
This is an overview to the treatment tool of hippotherapy for physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. This course will give the PT and PTA an understanding of the principles of hippotherapy, types of patients, and impairments that support including it into a plan of care and, the research supporting it for EBP. This course is directly related to the practice of physical therapy and is therefore appropriate for the PT/PTA.

Contemporary Guidelines for Exercise and Diabetes: Application to Physical Therapy Cases
Presented by Gina Pariser, PT, LDE, PhD
Recorded Webinar


Gina Pariser, PT, LDE, PhD
Course: #3387Level: Introductory2 Hours
  'With the continued increase of diabetes in society as well as younger adult type two diabetes it is important to know how to prescribe exercise to these patients as well as knowing how to help self-monitor and evaluate if it is safe to exercise'   Read Reviews
Physical activity is established as an important therapy in the prevention and management of diabetes and diabetes-related health comorbidities. This course reviews new guidelines related to physical activity for improving glucose control and cardiovascular health in people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and highlights ways to apply these guidelines in different physical therapy cases. This course is directly related to the practice of physical therapy and is therefore appropriate for the PT and PTA.

Evaluation and Treatment of Vestibular Related Impairments in Children
Presented by Jennifer Christy, PT, PhD
Recorded Webinar


Jennifer Christy, PT, PhD
Course: #4183Level: Intermediate2 Hours
  'The treatment suggestions and strategies'   Read Reviews
This presents common pediatric diagnoses leading to peripheral or central vestibular dysfunction. The presenter will discuss screening tools, diagnostic tests, outcome measures, and physical therapy interventions for children with suspected vestibular dysfunction. This course is directly related to the practice of physical therapy and is therefore appropriate for the PT/PTA.

Editor's Note: Regarding Pennsylvania credits, this course is approved by the PA State Board of Physical Therapy for 1 hour of general and 1 hour of Direct Access CE credit.

Multiple Sclerosis: Evaluation and Intervention for Patients with Mild, Moderate, and Severe Disability
Presented by Herb Karpatkin, PT, DSc, NCS, MSCS
Recorded Webinar


Herb Karpatkin, PT, DSc, NCS, MSCS
Course: #3178Level: Advanced2 Hours
  'Treatment strategiesInformation of Pediatric MS'   Read Reviews
This course is part 3 of a series on multiple sclerosis (MS). In this course, the presenter will cover evaluation and intervention strategies for those with mild, moderate and severe disability as well as pediatric and older adult patients with MS.

Medical Screening – Part 2 Pediatrics & Adolescence
Presented by Dawn T. Gulick, PT, PhD, ATC, CSCS
Recorded Webinar


Dawn T. Gulick, PT, PhD, ATC, CSCS
Course: #4474Level: Advanced2 Hours
  'This course increased general awareness to promote best treatment approaches for anyone treating the pediatric/adolescent population'   Read Reviews
This course focuses on medical screening for the physical therapist and is Part 2 of a four-part series on screening. Part 2 addresses pathology in the pediatric and adolescent lifespan. Part 1 is recommended prior to part 2.

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