Effects of equine-assisted therapy on the functionality of individuals with disabilities: systematic review and meta-analysis

Physiother Theory Pract. 2022 Sep;38(9):1091-1106. doi: 10.1080/09593985.2020.1836694. Epub 2020 Oct 21.


Purpose: Evaluate the effects of Equine-Assisted Therapy (EAT) on the functioning of individuals with different health conditions through a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials (RCT).

Methods: This review was registered in the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (CRD42018100035) and followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-analyses recommendations. RCT were searched in eight different databases, using relevant keywords until July 7, 2020. Two independent reviewers performed selection of articles and data extraction that were synthesized and analyzed according to the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health. Methodological quality and evidence of the effects were established through the PEDro score and GRADE. For meta-analysis we used random effects method, pooled-effect results, and mean difference with 95% confidence interval.

Results: Among 713 selected articles, 23 were included in the review. There is evidence of positive effects of the EAT on: exercise tolerance (p = .004) and quality of life (p < .0001), with high confidence in those effects; mobility (p = .002) and interpersonal interactions and relationships (p < .0001), with moderate confidence in those effects.

Conclusion: There are significant positive effects of the EAT on exercise tolerance, mobility, interpersonal interactions and relationships and quality of life of people with disabilities.

Keywords: Equine-assisted therapy; disabled persons; international classification of functioning disability and health.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Disabled Persons*
  • Equine-Assisted Therapy*
  • Exercise Tolerance
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life