Equine-assisted occupational therapy is the incorporation of the horse into treatment sessions to work towards functional outcomes. Therapeutic activities are used to address the client’s goals, such as engaging in simple relational exchanges with the horse, leading a horse through a obstacle course to work on executive functioning and/or cognitive needs, or brushing a horse’s neck to address reaching and fine motor skills.
Hippotherapy is a subset of equine-assisted therapy, where a therapist uses evidence-based and clinical reasoning in the purposeful manipulation of equine movement to to engage sensory, neuromotor, and cognitive systems. A variety of functional positions, changes in direction and speed, movement patterns of the horse and client, and changes in terrain are used in conjunction with functional activities to work towards client’s goals. Other functional systems are addressed with the incorporation of the horse which include but are not limited to: emotional regulation, relationship-building, functional communication, and social interactions.