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MiraColt for Cerebral Palsy Therapy

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Hippotherapy, Cerebral Palsy, and the MiraColt™

The MiraColt™, used either in a home or clinical environment, is a safe, simple, affordable and practically viable complement for physical and occupational management of cerebral palsy to improve therapy outcomes and quality of life.

The MiraColt™ improves core strength, posture, stability, and control. It also has a long-term positive impact on speech, memory, and learning.

Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that affects a person’s movement, muscle tone, and motor skills. Therapeutic interventions can be helpful in addressing a person’s physical and functional abilities to improve both their and their care giver’s quality of life. The MiraColt™ equine motion simulator is a device designed to complement therapeutic interventions for individuals with cerebral palsy by improving core strength, posture, stability, and control.

The MiraColt™ simulator mimics the movements of a horse, which can provide therapeutic benefits similar to those experienced through hippotherapy (therapy with horses). This type of therapy can help improve balance, coordination, and muscle strength, which can lead to improved mobility and overall physical function.

In addition to the physical benefits, there is some anecdotal and researched evidence to suggest that equine motion simulators, of which the MiraColt™ simulator is uniquely best in class due to the exactness of its motion simulation, may also have a positive impact on cognitive function. Studies have found that horseback riding and related therapies can improve speech, memory, and learning in individuals with neurological disorders, including cerebral palsy.

It’s worth noting that the MiraColt™ simulator is a relatively new technology. We continue to explore more research to fully understand its therapeutic potential for individuals with cerebral palsy. As researchers learn more about equine-assisted therapy and therapeutic horseback riding, the benefits of hippotherapy for cerebral palsy, both through the use of horses and equine motion simulators, become even clearer. People using the MiraColt have repeatedly reported improvements in core strength with reduced muscular spasticity, resulting in improved gait and stability, plus pelvic strength and control (with accompanying bladder and bowel control). They also reported becoming progressively calmer and having better sleep, improved memory, and learning progress, as well as speech control and ability. Using the MiraColt promotes neuromuscular, sensory, and cognitive outcomes.

The MiraColt reproduces natural motion patterns.

The MiraColt is a therapeutic medical device designed to realistically reproduce the complex and natural three-dimensional motion patterns experienced when walking or when riding a horse. When used as part of therapy intervention in cerebral palsy, it stimulates neural pathways and the muscular system by delivering carefully graded motor and sensory inputs.

Summary of Key Benefits

While more research is ongoing to confirm the long-term benefits of the horse gait motion in hosreback riding as part of hippotherapy, equine assisted therapy or therapeutic riding – the benefits of which can be delivered by using the Miracolt Equine Motion Simulator, the available evidence suggests that it can be a safe and effective form of therapy for children with cerebral palsy.

Here is a summary of the specific benefits (primary and secondary) associated with the gait motion of a horse during horseback riding in hippotherapy, equine assisted therapy or therapeutic riding in the management of cerebral palsy:

  • Improved balance and coordination
  • Increased muscle tone
  • Improved range of motion
  • Reduced spasticity
  • Improved gait and posture
  • Improved social skills
  • Increased self-confidence
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Decreased anxiety and depression.
  • Increased sense of well-being

Talk to your doctor, a physical or occupational therapist to see if the MiraColt could be a good fit for your child. Its use as part of therapeutic intervention is not a cure for cerebral palsy, but it can be a very helpful part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

What Is Cerebral Palsy and how we help?

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of neurological disorders that affect movement, muscle tone, coordination and motor skills. It is caused by damage to the developing brain, usually before or during birth, but can also occur in early childhood. The damage can occur due to a variety of reasons, including lack of oxygen, infections, or brain injuries. CP can cause a range of physical and developmental disabilities, including difficulty with walking, speaking, and performing everyday tasks.

In the United States, the incidence of cerebral palsy is about 1 in every 345 children (or 3.6 per 1,000 live births), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is the most common motor disability in childhood.

Common symptoms of cerebral palsy include difficulty with muscle control and coordination, including spasticity, which causes stiffness and difficulty with movement; dyskinesia, which causes involuntary movements; and ataxia, which causes problems with balance and coordination. People with cerebral palsy may also have difficulty with speech, vision, and hearing. In many cases there is delayed motor development and weakness in one or more limbs.

People with cerebral palsy may face challenges with daily activities such as walking, dressing, and eating. They may also experience cognitive or intellectual disabilities, seizures, and vision or hearing impairments. In addition, families of children with cerebral palsy may face financial and emotional stress, as well as navigating the complex healthcare and educational systems to ensure their child receives appropriate care and support.

Although the symptoms of CP vary from person to person, all people with the condition have some form of disability with movement and posture. People with severe CP might require use of special equipment to walk and could need lifelong care. Those with mild CP, on the other hand, could have problems with their gait, but might not require any extra assistance. Although CP does not worsen over time, the exact symptoms can change over a person’s lifetime.

With appropriate support and resources, people with cerebral palsy can lead fulfilling lives and achieve their goals. Occupational, speech and physical therapy interventions in the management of cerebral palsy are important in relieving the symptomatic effects of the condition. These interventions, as part of a holistic care approach, not only relieve, but also improve the overall learning and functional quality of life for these individuals. The MiraColt is inspired by the benefits that hippotherapy and horseback riding has shown for people with cerebral palsy.

The MiraColt, delivers numerous neuro-motor and cognitive improvements that improve outcomes and quality of life for people with cerebral palsy. The device, which is simple to operate, safe, and fun to ride, can be used both in a clinic setting or at home with minimal supervision and directive support from a therapist.

The MiraColt helps with cerebral palsy gait training by teaching the muscles and joints to work in a proper motion by directing the riders’ hip movement into the normal human walking gait pattern.  This consistent input increases muscles memory and strength, which translates into correcting gait function. Research has shown that after about 24 sessions, each about 30 minutes, children had significant improvements in functional skills (self-care, social function, and mobility) and a reduced need for caregiver assistance.  Users had better postural balance in the sitting position, dynamic balance, and functionality.

Furthermore, as the MiraColt stimulates neural pathways, it has a calming effect on the individual with cerebral palsy. This leads to improvements in quality of sleep, which is key to memory recall and promotes development. Consistent use delivers long-term impacts on the overall quality of life and ability of the individual with cerebral palsy, plus their families. 

Research: Does Horseback Riding Actually Work?

As already stated, hippotherapy, equine-assisted therapy, and therapeutic riding are increasingly being used to manage cerebral palsy in children. One is however justified to ask, “is there evidence that it actually helps?”. With this brief, we hope to provide some scientific basis you could use as part of your study on the specific benefits associated with the gait motion of a horse during horseback riding in these therapies. To do so, 13 journal articles are analyzed and cited here for their findings regarding the effects of these therapies on spasticity, gross motor function, muscle spasticity, balance, motor proficiency, and functional ability in children with cerebral palsy.

Hyun et al. (2022)1, Lucena-Antón et al. (2018)4 and Casady et al. (2004)11, in their studies found that hippotherapy and therapeutic horseback riding had a positive effect on spasticity in children with cerebral palsy, both in the short term and long term. Additionally, it was found that these therapies had a positive effect on gross motor function (Menor-Rodríguez et al. (2021)5, Park et al. (2014)3) and functional performance (Park et al. (2014)3), including improvements in sitting balance (Kang et al. (2012)6) and adductor muscle activity symmetry (McGibbon et al. (2009)7).

Therapy involving horseback riding was found to have positive effects on muscle spasticity (Lucena-Antón et al. (2018)4) and postural control (Zadnikar et al. (2011)10). Furthermore, Lee et al. (2014)9 found that both hippotherapy and horse-riding simulator training significantly improved balance in children with CP.

Several studies have also demonstrated that horseback riding therapy can improve motor proficiency and functional ability in children with CP. Champagne et al. (2017)8 found that hippotherapy improved motor proficiency and function in children with CP who were able to walk. Similarly, Chang et al. (2012)2 reported that hippotherapy significantly improved motor function in children with spastic bilateral CP.

The effects of horseback riding therapy on body functions, activities, and participation have also been evaluated. Hsieh et al. (2017)13 found that children who participated in hippotherapy showed significant improvements in various domains of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health for Children and Youth (ICF-CY). Shurtleff and Engsberg (2012)11 reported on a case study of a child with CP who participated in hippotherapy for five years. They found that the child showed significant improvements in range of motion, muscle tone, and motor function.

In summary, the benefits of horseback riding in hippotherapy, equine-assisted therapy, and therapeutic riding are diverse and wide-ranging, including improvements in spasticity, gross motor function, muscle spasticity, balance, motor proficiency, and functional ability in children with cerebral palsy. These benefits are attributed to the gait motion of a horse, which provides sensory input and can simulate the natural movements of walking. It can be reasonably concluded that horseback riding can be an effective and valuable therapy for children with cerebral palsy. Having horseback riding therapy as an addition to traditional therapy that you or a family member is receiving for cerebral palsy is certainly worth exploring with your doctor and/or therapist.

  1. Hyun, Cheolhwan, et al. “The short-term effects of hippotherapy and therapeutic horseback riding on spasticity in children with cerebral palsy: a meta-analysis.” Pediatric Physical Therapy 34.2 (2022): 172. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8959353/)
  2. Chang, Hyun Jung, et al. “The effects of hippotherapy on the motor function of children with spastic bilateral cerebral palsy.” Journal of Physical Therapy Science 24.12 (2012): 1277-1280. (https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jpts/24/12/24_1277/_article/-char/ja/)
  3. Park, Eun Sook, et al. “Effects of hippotherapy on gross motor function and functional performance of children with cerebral palsy.” Yonsei medical journal 55.6 (2014): 1736-1742. ( https://synapse.koreamed.org/articles/1031432)
  4. Lucena-Antón, David, Ignacio Rosety-Rodríguez, and Jose A. Moral-Munoz. “Effects of a hippotherapy intervention on muscle spasticity in children with cerebral palsy: A randomized controlled trial.” Complementary therapies in clinical practice 31 (2018): 188-192. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1744388118300227)
  5. Menor-Rodríguez, María José, et al. “Role and Effects of Hippotherapy in the Treatment of Children with Cerebral Palsy: A Systematic Review of the Literature.” Journal of Clinical Medicine 10.12 (2021): 2589. (https://www.mdpi.com/1146836)
  6. Kang, Hyungkyu, Jinhwa Jung, and Jaeho Yu. “Effects of hippotherapy on the sitting balance of children with cerebral palsy: a randomized control trial.” Journal of Physical Therapy Science 24.9 (2012): 833-836. (https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jpts/24/9/24_833/_article/-char/ja/)
  7. McGibbon, Nancy H., et al. “Immediate and long-term effects of hippotherapy on symmetry of adductor muscle activity and functional ability in children with spastic cerebral palsy.” Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation 90.6 (2009): 966-974. ( https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003999309002044)
  8. Champagne, Danielle, Hélène Corriveau, and Claude Dugas. “Effect of hippotherapy on motor proficiency and function in children with cerebral palsy who walk.” Physical & occupational therapy in pediatrics 37.1 (2017): 51-63. ( https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/01942638.2015.1129386)
  9. Lee, Chae-woo, Seong Gil Kim, and Sang Su Na. “The effects of hippotherapy and a horse riding simulator on the balance of children with cerebral palsy.” Journal of physical therapy science 26.3 (2014): 423-425. (https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jpts/26/3/26_jpts-2013-399/_article/-char/ja/)
  10. Zadnikar, Monika, and Andrej Kastrin. “Effects of hippotherapy and therapeutic horseback riding on postural control or balance in children with cerebral palsy: a meta‐analysis.” Developmental medicine & child neurology 53.8 (2011): 684-691. (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1469-8749.2011.03951.x)
  11. Shurtleff, Tim, and Jack Engsberg. “Long-term effects of hippotherapy on one child with cerebral palsy: A research case study.” British Journal of Occupational Therapy 75.8 (2012): 359-366. (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.4276/030802212X13433105374279)
  12. Casady, Renee L., and Deborah S. Nichols-Larsen. “The effect of hippotherapy on ten children with cerebral palsy.” Pediatric Physical Therapy 16.3 (2004): 165-172. (https://journals.lww.com/pedpt/FullText/2004/01630/The_Effect_of_Hippotherapy_on_Ten_Children_with.5.aspx)
  13. Hsieh, Yueh-Ling, et al. “Effects of hippotherapy on body functions, activities and participation in children with cerebral palsy based on ICF-CY assessments.” Disability and Rehabilitation 39.17 (2017): 1703-1713. (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09638288.2016.1207108)
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