Immediate and long-term effects of hippotherapy on symmetry of adductor muscle activity and functional ability in children with spastic cerebral palsy

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2009 Jun;90(6):966-74. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2009.01.011.


Objectives: To investigate the immediate effects of 10 minutes of hippotherapy, compared with 10 minutes of barrel-sitting, on symmetry of adductor muscle activity during walking in children with cerebral palsy (CP) (phase I). To investigate the long-term effects of 12 weeks of hippotherapy on adductor activity, gross motor function, and self-concept (phase II).

Design: Pretest/posttest randomized controlled trial plus clinical follow-up.

Setting: Outpatient therapy center.

Participants: Children with spastic CP (phase I: n=47; phase II: n=6).

Interventions: Phase I: 10 minutes of hippotherapy or 10 minutes of barrel-sitting; phase II: 12 weekly hippotherapy sessions.

Main outcome measures: Phases I and II: adductor muscle activity measured by surface electromyography. Phase II: gross motor function and self-perception profiles.

Results: Phase I: hippotherapy significantly improved adductor muscle asymmetry (P<.001; d=1.32). Effects of barrel-sitting were not significant (P>.05; d=.10). Phase II: after 12 weeks of hippotherapy, testing in several functional domains showed improvements over baseline that were sustained for 12 weeks posttreatment.

Conclusions: Hippotherapy can improve adductor muscle symmetry during walking and can also improve other functional motor skills.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Animals
  • Cerebral Palsy / physiopathology
  • Cerebral Palsy / rehabilitation*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Electromyography
  • Exercise Movement Techniques / methods*
  • Female
  • Horses*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement*
  • Walking*