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What is the Difference Between Equine-Assisted Therapy and Hippotherapy?


What is the Difference Between Equine-Assisted Therapy and Hippotherapy?

Horses are incredibly perceptive to the emotions of humans, which is why these animals are effective in therapy.

Horses are able to identify human expressions, choosing to approach more positive facial expressions than angry ones. [1] This makes horses very sensitive to changes in human expression and emotion, and this sensitivity makes horse therapy an increasingly popular avenue for healing, both emotionally and physically. Equine-assisted therapy and hippotherapy are two common types of horse therapy, but there are distinct differences between the two.

Equine-Assisted Therapy vs Hippotherapy

Both therapies involve horses, but each addresses a different goal in overall health. Equine-assisted therapy focuses on addressing mental health, with patients caring for horses in a stable setting. Hippotherapy, on the other hand, is an approach to physical therapy where the patient rides horses in order to address physical health.

Hippotherapy is a combination word that encompasses the occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and physical therapy components of this horse-riding therapeutic technique. [2]

Equine-assisted therapy focuses on addressing mental health challenges, such as those associated with alcohol, opiate, or cocaine detox. By caring for horses with a mental health professional present, patients are able to address the emotional and mental health issues associated with their substance use disorder. The emotional intelligence of horses helps patients improve self-confidence, overcome their struggles, and build long-lasting emotional foundations for successful sobriety. Equine-assisted therapy has been shown to improve mental health, even reducing symptoms of mental health disorders. [3]

Finding Treatment Solutions

At Banyan Detox Boca, we offer a wide variety of approaches to mental health and addiction treatment. Our Boca drug treatment programs include equine-assisted therapy to help patients better overcome their struggles.

If you or someone you love needs guidance in recovery, contact our treatment team by calling 888-280-4763.


  1. NCBI – Horses discriminate between facial expressions of conspecifics
  2. American Hippotherapy Association – What Is Hippotherapy?
  3. NCBI - The Effects of Equine-assisted Activities and Therapy on Resting-state Brain Function in Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Pilot Study
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
What is the Difference Between Equine-Assisted Therapy and Hippotherapy?
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