Skip to Main Content

Back in the Saddle WarriorsSM
Equine-assisted Therapy

How Hippotherapy Works

This Hippotherapy RideAlong Demonstration was done at The Shea Center in Ca. Heartbeat thanks Shea Center for permission to show this outstanding video of how this therapy works.

What is Back in the Saddle Warriors?

Back in the Saddle Warriors is Heartbeat's clinical and evidence based Equine Assisted Therapy which consists of Hippotherapy . Providers include: Occupational Therapist with Level 1 hippotherapy certification and a PATH certified trainer. Volunteers are also used as sidewalkers .

These evidence-based therapies improve muscle strength, emotional well-being, motor development, balance, and coordination. Therapy addresses many injuries including

Project Healing Horse
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Speech injuries
  • Loss of limbs
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Return to top

What is hippotherapy?

Hippotherapy is an equine-assisted therapy. The warrior sits on the horse and uses its movement as a physical therapy. This isn’t horseback riding as we usually think of it.

Licensed physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists provide this treatment. While the warrior sits on the horse, the therapist guides the animal and makes changes in its movements. The warrior’s health goals determine how and when these changes are made.

Hippotherapy providers have training and certification approved by the American Hippotherapy Association. The therapy team includes horse trainers certified through the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association.

Return to top

How does hippotherapy work?

Horses and humans have something in common, a pelvis that works the same way. Both have identical hip movements when walking. While sitting on a moving horse, this allows a person’s body parts to move naturally. It strengthens muscle groups.

Even for someone without injuries, staying upright on a horse requires balance, coordination, and muscle strength. War injuries sometimes affect these abilities. Hippotherapy may help wounded warriors make improvements not achieved with other treatments.

Return to top

How does equine-assisted therapy help emotionally?

Warriors are natural protectors. It’s their job to take charge and perform brave acts every day. Injuries sometimes make it impossible to contribute any longer. It dramatically changes the warrior’s role — in the family, in the job, and in society.

The relationship between human and horse is a special one. Horses, gentle and sensitive, have a unique ability to sense human emotions. This special bond helps warriors work through difficult issues.

Hippotherapy and equine-assisted psychotherapy help wounded warriors find newfound strength. This success contributes to positive, lifelong changes. In turn, this affects family and society.

Return to top

Back In The Saddle Warrior during Hippotherapy doing exercises for his injury – Chief OT, Lesley Vaughn on the right showing him what to do

How does a wounded warrior qualify for help?

Almost anyone can make the first call to Heartbeat to get help — warrior, family member, or provider. After the warrior’s health care provider approves treatment, we can offer the service. The provider can be an occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech therapist, or doctor.

Return to top

Who qualifies to be in our clinical hippotherapy program?

At this time we are only able to serve Wounded or Injured from GWOT that are currently at the WTB at JBLM. We hope, in the future to add a PT that can enable us to serve outside the WTB. When that changes, the website will reflect that.

Return to top

Who pays for equine-assisted therapy?

As with all our programs and services, donations are the only source of support for Back in the Saddle Warriors. We offer services free to our heroes.

Our brave, wounded warriors sustained their injuries while they defended our freedom and way of life. They put their lives on the line for complete strangers. Heartbeat firmly believes all of us owe it to our heroes to help them heal.

Return to top

How can I volunteer for warriors?

We eagerly welcome volunteers with multiple skill levels, including medical professionals and certified horse trainers.

Your help brings joy and healing into the lives of our heroes. Please contact Heartbeat for more information or complete our volunteer application to join Team Heartbeat.

Return to top

One of our awesome Back In The Saddle Warriors after her Hippotherapy

Where do I go for therapy?

Please e-mail or call Heartbeat for information about locations.

Return to top

What can I donate?

Thank you for your support. Heartbeat is a private, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization — donations are tax deductible as allowed by law.

Click here for our flyer . We rely on donations to support Heartbeat’s services; we welcome donations of any size.

Clicking on the PayPal button will redirect you to their secure, user-friendly site.

Or send your donation by check or money order to

Heartbeat—Serving Wounded Warriors PO Box 704 Snohomish, WA 98291

Return to top