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What is Equine-based therapy ("Hippotherapy")?​

Hippotherapy is a treatment intervention incorporated into the therapeutic disciplines of Physical therapy, Occupational therapy, and Speech-language therapy. This evidenced-based practice uses the movement of horses to target specific therapy goals that include the sensory, neuromotor, and cognitive systems of the individual. A Speech-Languag​e Pathologist working with an individual with speech, language and/or sensory regulation challenges may choose to integrate the practice of hippotherapy into the individual's plan of care. 

Why equine movement? 

  • multidimensional 
  • engages the whole body system 
  • provides organized motor and sensory input 
  • the horse's movement is rhythmic and consistent

Who can benefit from hippotherapy?

  • Individuals as young as two years old until adulthood 
  • Functional limitations from mild to profound severity 
  • A wide range of diagnoses and/or medical conditions (e.g. brain injury, stroke, Autism, speech/language delay)

How does hippotherapy improve speech?

  • speech is a high-level motor skill
  • equine movement triggers all of the physiological systems that optimize speech and language function
  • improves postural control and stability
  • respiratory support 
  • motor control 
  • timing and rhytym 
  • supports the sensory systems (proprioceptive, vestibular, tactile)

How does hippotherapy improve language?

  • Stronger breath support may lead to increased utterance length 
  • improved vestibular skills can improve word-finding and word order difficulties 
  • Stimulate neural activity in the brain to strengthen connection between cognition and thoughts/language

Is there such thing as a Hippotherapist? 

The short answer is No. The introduction of Hippotherapy dates back to the mid 1980's in its use as a treatment approach to support standard practice of licensed professionals. A therapist never stops dong their profession and hippotherapy is just one of the many tools used in the therapy plan. It is recognized by the American Speech-Hearing Association (ASHA) as an incorporated treatment approach. 

Who is hippotherapy not recommended for?

  • medical diagnosis that include conditions of neurological/spinal cord impingement (Atlantoaxial Instability)
  • Severe Osteoporosis 
  • unstable spine or unstable weight bearing joints 
  • open wounds over weight bearing surface
  • Uncontrolled Grand Mal seizures 
  • Active mental health disorders 

For more information,

 visit the American Hippotherapy Association (AHA) at 

The quality of human communication depends on the integrity of the physiological systems that support speech and language- both structurally and functionally. 

American Hippotherapy Association (AHA)

Where does Hippotherapy take place? 

Our services for equine-based therapy are located on the Hamakua Coast at  Pu'umoi Ranch, just a 10 minute drive from downtown Hilo. 


Please inquiry for pricing information 

Includes use of ranch facilities, horse, equipment, helmet, and tack. 

Jeans and covered shoes are mandatory to participate. 

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