A randomized controlled trial of the impact of therapeutic horse riding on the quality of life, health, and function of children with cerebral palsy

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2009 Feb;51(2):111-9; discussion 88. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.2008.03245.x.


This randomized controlled trial examined whether therapeutic horse riding has a clinically significant impact on the physical function, health and quality of life (QoL) of children with cerebral palsy (CP). Ninety-nine children aged 4 to 12 years with no prior horse riding experience and various levels of impairment (Gross Motor Function Classification System Levels I-III) were randomized to intervention (10wks therapeutic programme; 26 males, 24 females; mean age 7y 8mo [SD 2y 5mo] or control (usual activities, 27 males, 22 females; mean age 8y 2mo [SD 2y 6mo]). Pre- and post-measures were completed by 72 families (35 intervention and 37 control). Children's gross motor function (Gross Motor Function Measure [GMFM]), health status (Child Health Questionnaire [CHQ]), and QoL (CP QoL-Child, KIDSCREEN) were assessed by parents and QoL was assessed by children before and after the 10-week study period. On analysis of covariance, there was no statistically significant difference in GMFM, CP QoL-Child (parent report and child self-report), and CHQ scores (except family cohesion) between the intervention and control group after the 10-week study period, but there was weak evidence of a difference for KIDSCREEN (parent report). This study suggests that therapeutic horse riding does not have a clinically significant impact on children with CP. However, a smaller effect cannot be ruled out and the absence of evidence might be explained by a lack of sensitivity of the instruments since the QoL and health measures have not yet been demonstrated to be sensitive to change for children with CP.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Animals
  • Cerebral Palsy* / physiopathology
  • Cerebral Palsy* / psychology
  • Cerebral Palsy* / rehabilitation
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Horses*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Play Therapy / methods*
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires