Changes in dynamic trunk/head stability and functional reach after hippotherapy

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2009 Jul;90(7):1185-95. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2009.01.026.


Objectives: To determine if hippotherapy (therapy using a horse) improves head/trunk stability and upper extremity (UE) reaching/targeting in children with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy (SDCP).

Design: Pre-postoperative follow-up with a 12-week intervention and 12-week washout period after intervention.

Setting: A human performance laboratory with 6 camera video motion capture systems for testing.

Participants: Eleven children (age 5-13y, average 8y) with SDCP, 8 children (age 5-13y, average 8y) without disabilities.

Intervention: Hippotherapy intervention performed at 3 therapeutic horseback riding centers.

Main outcome measures: Video motion capture using surface markers collecting data at 60 Hz, a mechanical barrel to challenge trunk and head stability, and functional reach/targeting test on static surface.

Results: Significant changes with large effect sizes in head/trunk stability and reaching/targeting, elapsed time, and efficiency (reach/path ratio) after 12 weeks of hippotherapy intervention. Changes were retained after a 12-week washout period.

Conclusions: Hippotherapy improves trunk/head stability and UE reaching/targeting. These skills form the foundation for many functional tasks. Changes are maintained after the intervention ceases providing a skill foundation for functional tasks that may also enhance occupational performance and participation.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Animals
  • Cerebral Palsy / physiopathology
  • Cerebral Palsy / rehabilitation*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Head*
  • Horses*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Thorax*
  • Upper Extremity*