Leah Tinkham



Document Type



Hippotherapy can be defined as a dynamic service offered by occupational, physical, and speech-language pathologists that utilizes a horse’s unique movement to achieve functional outcomes. While there are an abundance of studies demonstrating the effectiveness of hippotherapy, very few have examined the perceptions of the practitioners. The purposes of this thesis are to investigate hippotherapy’s effectiveness as well as to examine the beliefs and attitudes towards hippotherapy use among occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech therapists. A literature review was conducted to examine the effectiveness of hippotherapy.

The study included a total of 15 occupational, physical, and speech-language therapists who currently practice hippotherapy in the state of Massachusetts. These therapists were surveyed regarding their beliefs about the use of hippotherapy. In addition, 10 therapists who do not practice hippotherapy were interviewed regarding their perceptions of the practice. It was concluded that hippotherapy is a wide-reaching modality that serves many different populations. Both therapists that practice hippotherapy and those that do not are aware of the many benefits that hippotherapy offers. While there does seem to be growing awareness based on the data, there is a lack of understanding that hippotherapy is part of a treatment provided by occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech-language pathologists who use it has a treatment tool to address the goals of their patients. The major issues with its lack of availability to patients is due to insurance, costs, and lack of practicing therapists. In order for this problem to be solved, future evidence-based research with more individuals with the same disability needs to be conducted to alter the perceptions of insurance companies. If hippotherapy were more widely accepted by insurance companies, perhaps in turn, more therapists would use or prescribe it as a treatment tool.


Heath Studies

Thesis Comittee

Lydia Burak (Thesis Director)

James Leone

Copyright and Permissions

Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.