Hippotherapy and Equine Therapy Programs in Michigan

Trust, joy, confidence, and connection with peers are important for any child. Different therapies can be used to facilitate those feelings for children with disabilities, including animal-assisted therapy. Fostering a bond between a human and animal can promote psychological, emotional, and physical well-being. Specifically, horses can help to facilitate those goals in therapies known as equine therapy and hippotherapy.

What’s the difference between equine therapy and hippotherapy?

While both of these types of therapy involve horses, equine therapy and hippotherapy serve different purposes. Equine therapy focuses on the mental,  emotional, and social benefits of caring for and riding horses. Hippotherapy focuses on the physical stimulation of horseback riding, which can help with motor disorders and balance. 

little girl on horseback as hippotherapy
Little girl holding on to the saddle during riding lesson.

What is equine therapy?

Equine therapy is the therapeutic use of horseback riding to benefit children with a broad range of needs and abilities. Animal caretaking, horseback riding skills, balance, and muscle strength are developed through equine therapy. Additionally, children can develop social, emotional, and life skills through this fun and engaging activity. Learning horseback riding offers opportunities to bond with animals and other riders. Working with animals provides a judgment-free zone to help settle anxiety and build confidence.

Many equine therapy programs across the United States are part of PATH International, the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship. According to PATH International, equine-assisted therapy is used to pursue specific rehabilitative goals based on the person’s medical needs through the equine environment and equine activities.

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What is hippotherapy?

Though both involve horseback riding, hippotherapy is distinctly different from equine therapy. Hippotherapy is a type of occupational therapy that uses the movement of a horse to provide benefits to children with disabilities like cerebral palsy. Hippotherapy is administered by a professional in occupational, physical, or speech-pathology therapy who is trained to incorporate equine movements to engage neuromotor, cognitive, and sensory systems.

The repetitive gait and the rocking motion of the horse resemble the movements required in walking. Hippotherapy has been known to improve posture, muscle tone, flexibility, balance, and other skills. Many facilities across the country are part of the American Hippotherapy Association.

There are several facilities in Michigan that offer equine therapy or hippotherapy. Use our list below to find one in your area.

Equine therapy in Michigan

Banbury Cross Therapeutic Equestrian Center: PATH International therapeutic horseback riding lessons, therapeutic horsemanship lessons, and equine assisted psychotherapy. Located in Oxford.

OATS – Offering Alternative Therapy with Smiles: Equine therapy, events, and day camp programs. Located in Ortonville.

Therapeutic Riding, Inc.: A PATH International member center and a USEF/USPEA Para-Equestrian Dressage Center of Excellence that offers equine therapy and summer camps. Located in Ann Arbor.

Hopewell Ranch: Therapeutic riding, therapeutic horsemanship, and equine assisted therapy. Located in Weidman.

Exceptional Horseback Riders of Saginaw County: Equine-assisted therapy and activities for individuals with physical, cognitive, emotional, and social needs. Located in Saginaw.

Cheff Therapeutic Riding Center: Group and private therapeutic horseback riding lessons. Located in Augusta.

Karin’s Horse Connection and Legacy Stables: Therapeutic horseback riding and adaptive vaulting programs. Located in Caledonia.

MSU 4-H Proud Equestrians Program: A therapeutic horseback riding program through MSU in East Lansing.

Tall in the Saddle: A 4-H Exceptional Riders Program that provides therapeutic riding to people with disabilities  in Midland.

Stepping Stones Therapeutic Riding, Inc.: Therapeutic horseback riding for individuals with disabilities. Located in Monroe.

Pretty Pony Pastures: Therapeutic riding classes and events. Located in Davisburg.

Liberty Valley Ranch: Therapeutic horsemanship and riding lessons from PATH International certified instructors. Located in Gaylord.

Beekman Therapeutic Riding Center: Horseback riding lessons, PATH certified therapeutic riding, and summer camps. Located in Lansing.

Forever Free Inc.: A center that provides therapeutic horseback riding lessons and supportive independent housing for individuals with developmental disabilities. Located in Wales.

Liberty Riders Inc.: Horseback riding and horse-related activities for individuals with disabilities. Located in St. Clair.

The Fowler Center for Outdoor Learning: Therapeutic riding programs and other outdoor programs for individuals with disabilities. Located in Mayville.

Equest Center for Therapeutic Riding, Inc: Equine therapy for people living with physical, mental, and social challenges in Rockford.

CHUM Therapeutic Riding: Riding opportunities for individuals with a wide range of abilities. Located in Dansville.

Hippotherapy in Michigan

Great Strides Therapy, LLC: A hippotherapy center that employs speech, physical, and occupational therapy. Located in Chelsea.

Northern Michigan Equine Therapy: A non-profit outpatient rehabilitation facility that uses equine assisted therapy and hippotherapy. Located in Boyne City.

Stable Possibilities, LLC: Occupational therapy services with the use of hippotherapy. Located in Washington Township.

Disclaimer: Please note this post is meant as a resource. ABC Law Centers does not provide equine therapy or hippotherapy. Please contact each business individually in order to schedule appointments or inquire about their therapy programs.

Related Resources:

Activities for Children with Disabilities

Treatments and Therapies for Cerebral Palsy



  1. [Path International] Equine-Assisted Learning
  2. [American Hippotherapy Association] FAQ