Date of Award

Spring 5-4-2024

Document Type

Oral Presentation/Poster

Degree Name

Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)


Health Science

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Ranelle Nissen, PhD, OTR/L

Second Advisor

Emily Lueck, OTR/L

Third Advisor

Tonya Stillwell, PT, WCC


hippotherapy, occupational therapy, equine interventions, physical disability, cognitive disability, sensory processing, developmental delay

Subject Categories

Alternative and Complementary Medicine | Congenital, Hereditary, and Neonatal Diseases and Abnormalities | Occupational Therapy | Therapeutics


Aim: This project focused on the development of advanced clinical skills of OT-based hippotherapy in a pediatric setting and program development of the Genesis Therapeutic Riding Center. Information was gathered from primary and secondary sources to promote student skill acquisition, client goal progress, and parent-caregiver education of at-home interventions.

Objective: Goals focused on gaining knowledge and competencies of OT-based hippotherapy, key clinical information, and interdisciplinary roles. The purpose of this project was to highlight the impact of staff responsibilities and OT-based hippotherapy on physical and cognitive deficits.

Method: OT hippotherapy session observation and facilitation, extensive literature review, and multidisciplinary interviews across multiple therapy sites were conducted to identify key information and promote hippotherapy competency. A site-approved competency checklist was used to assess student hippotherpay competency. Multiple self-report questionnaires and semi-structured interviews were used to assess perceived benefits from created resources.

Results: All four capstone goals met goal success indicators. An OT site mentor, site staff members, and parents-caregivers reviewed the created resources and reported high amounts of perceived benefits. The OT student demonstrated 16/16 hippotherapy facilitator competencies and 23/24 client demonstrated appropriate goal progress.

Conclusion and Recommendations: Clients with various disabilities may benefit from OT-based hippotherapy, especially in the areas of postural strengthening, sustained attention, fine motor and gross motor skills. It is vital to facilitate communication with clients and their caregivers as well as continue researching specific OT-hippotherapy intervention protocals.