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The Effect of Hippotherapy on Ten Children with Cerebral Palsy

Casady, Renee L. PT, MS, HPCS; Nichols-Larsen, Deborah S. PhD, PT

Research Report

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine whether hippotherapy has an effect on the general functional development of children with cerebral palsy.

Methods: The study employed a repeated-measures design with two pre-tests and two post-tests conducted 10 weeks apart using the Pediatric Evaluation of Disability Inventory (PEDI) and the Gross Motor Function Measure (GMFM) as outcome measures. A convenience sample of 10 children with cerebral palsy participated whose ages were 2.3 to 6.8 years at baseline (mean ± SD 4.1 ± 1.7). Subjects received hippotherapy once weekly for 10 weeks between pre-test 2 and post-test 1. Test scores on the GMFM and PEDI were compared before and after hippotherapy.

Results: One-way analysis of variance of group mean scores with repeated measures was significant (p < 0.05) for all PEDI subscales and all GMFM dimensions except lying/rolling. Post hoc analyses with the Tukey test for honest significant differences on the PEDI and GMFM total measures as well as GMFM crawling/kneeling and PEDI social skills subtests were statistically significant between pre-test 2 and post-test 1.

Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that hippotherapy has a positive effect on the functional motor performance of children with cerebral palsy. Hippotherapy appears to be a viable treatment strategy for therapists with experience and training in this form of treatment and a means of improving functional outcomes in children with cerebral palsy, although specific functional skills were not investigated.

The results of this study suggest that hippotherapy has a positive effect on the functional motor performance of children with cerebral palsy.

Logan County Board of Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities (R.L.C.), Bellefontaine, Ohio, and School Allied Medical Professions, The Ohio State University (D.S.N-L.), Columbus, Ohio

Address correspondence to: Renee Casady, PT, MS, HPCS, 7403 CR 101, Belle Center, OH 43310. Email: casady@2access.net

Grant support: This research project was funded by grants from the American Hippotherapy Association, North American Riding for the Handicapped Association Region Four, and the Rositta Schiller Ohio State University grant award.

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.