History of Hippotherapy

History of Hippotherapy and AHA Inc.


Before 1900 


  • 460-377 B.C. – Hippocrates in ancient Greece wrote a chapter on ‘Natural Exercise’ and mentions riding


  • 1569 – Merkurialis of Italy wrote on ‘The Art of Gymnastics’ mentioning the horse and riding


  • 1780 – Tissot of France in his book ‘Medical and Surgical Gymnastics’ regarded riding at the walk as the most beneficial gait. He was also the first to describe the effects of too much riding as well as contraindications.



Since 1900 


  • In 1952 at the Helsinki Olympics, Liz Hartel won a silver medal in equestrian sports and told the world how riding had helped her recover from polio.


  • In the 1960′s therapeutic riding centers developed throughout Europe, Canada and the US.


  • In the 1960′s the horse began to be viewed as an adjunct to physical therapy in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. This endeavor was called ‘hippotherapy’.


  • In 1969 the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) was established in the United States.


  • In the 1970′s physical therapists in the United States began to develop treatment uses for the movement of the horse.


  • In 1987 a group of 18 American and Canadian therapists went to Germany to study hippotherapy and began development of a standardized hippotherapy curriculum.


  • 1988-1992 – Further development of standardized curricula on hippotherapy by the National hippotherapy curriculum Development Committee.


  • 1992 – Formation of the American Hippotherapy Association.


  • 1993 – The American Hippotherapy Association was approved as the first Section of NARHA.


  • 1994 – AHA Inc. established therapist registration and set standards of practice for hippotherapy. 1999 – American Hippotherapy Certification Board was established. The first Hippotherapy Clinical Specialists (HPCS) examination w



Founding Members:

These nationally registered and/or state licensed physical or occupational therapists have been involved in the National Hippotherapy Curriculum Development Committee the entire time since its inception in 1987.


  • Elizabeth Baker


  • Terri Barnes


  • Jane Copeland Fitzpatrick


  • Gertrude Freeman


  • Barbara Glasow


  • Pippa Hodge


  • Carolyn Jagielski


  • Linda Mitchell


  • Molly Lingua


  • Nancy McGibbon


  • Claudia Morin


  • Marcee Rosenzweig
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