Equine-assisted therapies, such as therapeutic riding and hippotherapy, are believed to have positive physical and emotional effects in individuals with neuromotor, developmental, and physical disabilities. The purpose of this review was to determine whether therapeutic riding and hippotherapy improve balance, motor function, gait, muscle symmetry, pelvic movement, psychosocial parameters, and the patients' overall quality of life.
In this study, a literature search was conducted on MEDLINE, CINAHL, MBASE, SportDiscus, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Cochrane Controlled Trials Register, PEDro, DARE, Google Scholar, and Dissertation Abstracts. Only studies with a control/comparison group or self-controlled studies performing preintervention and postintervention assessment were included. Excluded were (1) studies not providing data on baseline score or end-point outcome, (2) single-subject studies, (3) studies providing only qualitative data, and (4) studies that used a mechanical horse. Sixteen trials were included. The methodologic quality of each study was evaluated using Downs and Black quality assessment tool.
Most of the studies showed a trend toward a beneficial effect of therapeutic riding and hippotherapy on balance and gross motor function. The meta-analysis showed improvement in both the Berg Balance Scale and the Gross Motor Function Measure in therapeutic riding and hippotherapy programs.
Programs such as therapeutic riding and hippotherapy are a viable intervention option for patients with balance, gait, and psychomotor disorders.