Research

Take a look at the research we’ve compiled below.

Walking Motion
Neurological Disorders
MS
Improving Muscle tone and control
Gait disorders like Parkinsonism
Fall Prevention
Down Syndrome
Cerebral Palsy
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Asperger’s
Walking Motion

Brian A Garner , B Rhett Rigby. Comparing the Pelvis Kinematics of Able-Bodied Children During Normal Gait and When Riding a Therapeutic Horse, ASME 2010 Summer Bioengineering Conference At: Naples, FL [ResearchGate]

Brian A Garner, B Rhett Rigby Human pelvis motions when walking and when riding a therapeutic horse 2015 Feb;39:121-37. doi: 10.1016/j.humov.2014.06.011. Epub 2014 Nov 28. [PubMed]

Neurological Disorders

Cabiddu, Ramona et al. “Hippotherapy Acute Impact on Heart Rate Variability Non-Linear Dynamics in Neurological Disorders.” Physiology & behavior 159 (2016): 88–94. Web.
Our results suggest that Hippotherapy might benefit children with disabilities attributable to neurological disorders by eliciting an acute autonomic response during the therapy and during the recovery period. [Pubmed]

B R Rigby, R Davis, M Bittner, R Harwell, E Leek. Changes in motor skill proficiency after equine-assisted activities and brain-building tasks in youth with neurodevelopmental disorders. Frontiers in Veterinary Science (2020)

MS

Silkwood-Sherer D, Warmbier H. Effects of hippotherapy on postural stability, in persons with multiple sclerosis:a pilot study. J Neurol Phys Ther. 2007;31:77–84. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Muñoz-Lasa S, Ferriero G, Valero R, Gomez-Muñiz F, Rabini A, Varela E. Effect of therapeutic horseback riding on balance and gait of people with multiple sclerosis. G Ital Med Lav Ergon. 2011;33:462–7. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Improving Muscle tone and control

Silkwood-Sherer DJ, Killian CB, Long TM, Martin KS. Hippotherapy–an intervention to habilitate balance deficits in children with movement disorders:a clinical trial. Phys Ther. 2012;92:707–17. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Shurtleff TL, Standeven JW, Engsberg JR. Changes in dynamic trunk/head stability and functional reach after hippotherapy. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2009;90:1185–95. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

The efficacy of equine-assisted activities and therapies on improving physical function
Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2016). B R Rigby, P Grandjean

Ribeiro, Mariane Fernandes et al. “Activation of Lower Limb Muscles with Different Types of Mount in Hippotherapy.” Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies 22.1 (2017): 52–56. Web.
The analysis of muscle activity during these four sessions showed a significant difference in muscle recruitment in LL, and sessions with blanket and feet in the stirrups provided greater muscle activation of quadriceps and tibialis anterior with the horse at step gait (p = 0.0002). Conclusion The results suggest that feet positioned in the stirrups is a relevant factor for greater muscle recruitment in LL to maintain postural balance while riding, especially using a blanket as mount material for ride a horse. [PubMed]

Janaine Brandao Lage et al. “Effect of Horse Riding Equipment in Activity of Trunk and Lower Limb Muscles in Equine-Assisted Therapy Electromyography in Hippotherapy.” Acta scientiarum. Health sciences 42 (2020): n. pag. Web.
The SD group presented a greater muscular activity of trunk and lower limbs with blanket equipment without the feet supported in the stirrups The choice of riding equipment used in equine-assisted therapy interferes differently in the pattern of muscular activation of the trunk and the lower limbs, according to the pathological processes of the practitioners. It should be an important aspect to consider when planning a treatment. [Acta Scientiarum]

Gait disorders like Parkinsonism

Effects of simulated horseback riding on postural sway, balance, and quality of life in older adults with Parkinson’s disease
Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly (2019)
L S Goudy, B R Rigby, L Silliman-French, K A Becker

Lee CW, Kim SG, Yong MS. Effects of hippotherapy on recovery of gait and balance ability in patients with stroke. J Phys Ther Sci. 2014;26(2):309–11. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Fall Prevention

Kim, Seong-Gil, and Jung-Ho Lee. “The Effects of Horse Riding Simulation Exercise on Muscle Activation and Limits of Stability in the Elderly.” Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics 60.1 (2014): 62–65. Web.

Highlights: • Horse riding simulator exercise can increase the balance ability, resulting in the decrease of falling risk. • Horse riding simulator exercise can also increase the muscle activation, resulting in the decrease of falling risk. • Horse riding simulation has some advantages of motivation by providing diverse and comprehensive stimulation. • Horse riding simulation can be an effective approach to prevent the falling. [Science Direct]

Down Syndrome

Champagne D, Dugas C. Improving gross motor function and postural control with hippotherapy in children with Down syndrome:case reports. Physiother Theory Pract. 2010;26:564–71. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Cerebral Palsy

Benda W, McGibbon NH, Grant KL. Improvements in muscle symmetry in children with cerebral palsy after equine-assisted therapy (hippotherapy) J Altern Complement Med. 2003; 9:817–25. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Shurtleff TL, Engsberg JR. Changes in trunk and head stability in children with cerebral palsy after hippotherapy : a pilot study. Phys Occup Ther Pediatr. 2010;30:150–63. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Žalienė, L et al. “Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Riding for Children with Cerebral Palsy Gross Motor Functions.” BioMed research international 2018 (2018): 1–6. Web.
Ten riding lessons did not have an influence on the beginner riders with cerebral palsy gross motor functions and their gross motor function level did not change. However, in half of the advanced riders with cerebral palsy, the gross motor functions significantly improved. [Hindawi]

Antunes, Fabiane Nunes et al. “Different Horse’s Paces During Hippotherapy on Spatio-Temporal Parameters of Gait in Children with Bilateral Spastic Cerebral Palsy: A Feasibility Study.” Research in developmental disabilities 59 (2016): 65–72. Web.
The comparisons between BS-CP and the reference group found differences in all spatio-temporal parameters, except for gait velocity. Within-group analysis of children with BS-CP showed that the swing phase did not change after the walk pace and after the walk-trot pace. The percentage of rolling phase and double support improved after the walk-trot. The spasticity of the hip adductors was significantly reduced as an immediate result of both protocols, but this decrease was more evident after the walk-trot. The walk-trot protocol is feasible and is able to induce an immediate effect that improves the gait spatio-temporal parameters and the hip adductors spasticity. [Science Direct]

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 and child neurology 53.8 (2011): 684–691. Web.
A positive effect was shown in 21 of the children with CP in the comparison group regardless of the activity undertaken (i.e. physiotherapy, occupational therapy, sitting on a barrel or in an artificial saddle). The pooled effect size estimate was positive (OR 25.41, 95% CI 4.35, 148.53), demonstrating a statistically significant effectiveness of hippotherapy or THR in children with CP (p<0.001). Meta‐regression of study characteristics revealed no study‐specific factors. Interpretation: The eight studies found that postural control and balance were improved during hippotherapy and THR. Although the generalization of our findings may be restricted by the relatively small sample size, the results clearly demonstrate that riding therapy is indicated to improve postural control and balance in children with CP. [Wiley]

Kwon JY, Chang HJ, Yi SH, Lee JY, Shin HY, Kim YH. Effect of hippotherapy on gross motor function in children with cerebral palsy:a randomized controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2015;21:15–21. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Borgi, Marta et al. “Effectiveness of a Standardized Equine-Assisted Therapy Program for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 46.1 (2016): 1–9. Web.
Improved executive functioning was also observed (i.e. reduced planning time in a problem-solving task) at the end of the EAT program. Our findings provide further support for the use of animal-assisted intervention programs as complementary intervention strategies for children with ASD. [Pubmed]

Hameury, L et al. “Equine-Assisted Therapy and Autism.” Annales médico psychologiques 168.9 (2010): 655–. Web
The objective is to apply the principles and therapeutic techniques developed for the developmental disorders of the child in an extra-hospital setting, a soothing and playful atmosphere, and with the help of the horse as a mediator. The results show a clear improvement from the first equi-therapy session. All functions involved in development are improved, especially those concerning communication, imitation, perceptual, emotional and motor regulation. [Science Direct]

Rydzkowski, Wendy. “‘It’s Not Just About the Horses at Equine!’: Exploring Perceptions of Equine Assisted Therapy with Adolescents with Autism, Their Staff and Therapy Providers.” ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2017. Print.
The Equine Assisted therapy gave a context for experiential learning; it promoted emotional regulation, and it enhanced emotional wellbeing. Instead of asking why the benefits of such therapy do not necessarily extend to other settings, the researcher poses the question of how it might be possible to apply points made about Equine Assisted therapy to school -based, and general life experiences. [ORCA]

Llambias, Cecilia et al. “Equine-Assisted Occupational Therapy: Increasing Engagement for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder.” The American journal of occupational therapy 70.6 (2016): 7006220040p1–. Web.
The children showed improvements in engagement. Including horses in occupational therapy sessions may be a valuable addition to conventional treatments to increase task engagement of children with ASD. [Gale] [AJOT]

Peters, B. Caitlin. “Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapies for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.” ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2018. Print.
In the systematic mapping review, five types of equine-assisted activities were identified across 25 studies, with reported improvements in behavior, social interaction, and communication. Four types of equine-assisted therapies were identified across eight studies, with reported improvements in motor control and self-care. Guided by findings, we propose that a) equine movement, manipulated by a therapist, challenges and improves postural control, and that an equine-assisted activity or therapy can, b) promote engagement, a platform for social development, and c) provide structured support for social interaction and positively reinforce communication. Derived from interview data, a concept map of therapists’ clinical reasoning delineates hypothesized mechanisms of change, including the role of the horse, that lead to improvements in the following outcomes: a) cognitive skills, b) motor skills, c) attention and engagement during therapy, d) social interaction, e) communication, f) behavior, and g) safety. One type of EAAT, OTee, is a highly individualized intervention that requires clinical reasoning to incorporate the unique affordances of the equine environment into individualized occupational therapy; when tailored to the individual needs of children with ASD, OTee may improve occupational performance, hyperactivity, irritability, social communication, and social motivation. [Springer Link]

Asperger’s

Walking Motion

Brian A Garner , B Rhett Rigby. Comparing the Pelvis Kinematics of Able-Bodied Children During Normal Gait and When Riding a Therapeutic Horse, ASME 2010 Summer Bioengineering Conference At: Naples, FL [ResearchGate]

Brian A Garner, B Rhett Rigby Human pelvis motions when walking and when riding a therapeutic horse 2015 Feb;39:121-37. doi: 10.1016/j.humov.2014.06.011. Epub 2014 Nov 28. [PubMed]

Neurological Disorders

Cabiddu, Ramona et al. “Hippotherapy Acute Impact on Heart Rate Variability Non-Linear Dynamics in Neurological Disorders.” Physiology & behavior 159 (2016): 88–94. Web.
Our results suggest that Hippotherapy might benefit children with disabilities attributable to neurological disorders by eliciting an acute autonomic response during the therapy and during the recovery period. [Pubmed]

B R Rigby, R Davis, M Bittner, R Harwell, E Leek. Changes in motor skill proficiency after equine-assisted activities and brain-building tasks in youth with neurodevelopmental disorders. Frontiers in Veterinary Science (2020)

MS

Silkwood-Sherer D, Warmbier H. Effects of hippotherapy on postural stability, in persons with multiple sclerosis:a pilot study. J Neurol Phys Ther. 2007;31:77–84. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Muñoz-Lasa S, Ferriero G, Valero R, Gomez-Muñiz F, Rabini A, Varela E. Effect of therapeutic horseback riding on balance and gait of people with multiple sclerosis. G Ital Med Lav Ergon. 2011;33:462–7. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Improving Muscle tone and control

Silkwood-Sherer DJ, Killian CB, Long TM, Martin KS. Hippotherapy–an intervention to habilitate balance deficits in children with movement disorders:a clinical trial. Phys Ther. 2012;92:707–17. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Shurtleff TL, Standeven JW, Engsberg JR. Changes in dynamic trunk/head stability and functional reach after hippotherapy. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2009;90:1185–95. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

The efficacy of equine-assisted activities and therapies on improving physical function
Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2016). B R Rigby, P Grandjean

Ribeiro, Mariane Fernandes et al. “Activation of Lower Limb Muscles with Different Types of Mount in Hippotherapy.” Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies 22.1 (2017): 52–56. Web.
The analysis of muscle activity during these four sessions showed a significant difference in muscle recruitment in LL, and sessions with blanket and feet in the stirrups provided greater muscle activation of quadriceps and tibialis anterior with the horse at step gait (p = 0.0002). Conclusion The results suggest that feet positioned in the stirrups is a relevant factor for greater muscle recruitment in LL to maintain postural balance while riding, especially using a blanket as mount material for ride a horse. [PubMed]

Janaine Brandao Lage et al. “Effect of Horse Riding Equipment in Activity of Trunk and Lower Limb Muscles in Equine-Assisted Therapy Electromyography in Hippotherapy.” Acta scientiarum. Health sciences 42 (2020): n. pag. Web.
The SD group presented a greater muscular activity of trunk and lower limbs with blanket equipment without the feet supported in the stirrups The choice of riding equipment used in equine-assisted therapy interferes differently in the pattern of muscular activation of the trunk and the lower limbs, according to the pathological processes of the practitioners. It should be an important aspect to consider when planning a treatment. [Acta Scientiarum]

Gait disorders like Parkinsonism

Effects of simulated horseback riding on postural sway, balance, and quality of life in older adults with Parkinson’s disease
Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly (2019)
L S Goudy, B R Rigby, L Silliman-French, K A Becker

Lee CW, Kim SG, Yong MS. Effects of hippotherapy on recovery of gait and balance ability in patients with stroke. J Phys Ther Sci. 2014;26(2):309–11. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Fall Prevention

Kim, Seong-Gil, and Jung-Ho Lee. “The Effects of Horse Riding Simulation Exercise on Muscle Activation and Limits of Stability in the Elderly.” Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics 60.1 (2014): 62–65. Web.

Highlights: • Horse riding simulator exercise can increase the balance ability, resulting in the decrease of falling risk. • Horse riding simulator exercise can also increase the muscle activation, resulting in the decrease of falling risk. • Horse riding simulation has some advantages of motivation by providing diverse and comprehensive stimulation. • Horse riding simulation can be an effective approach to prevent the falling. [Science Direct]

Down Syndrome

Champagne D, Dugas C. Improving gross motor function and postural control with hippotherapy in children with Down syndrome:case reports. Physiother Theory Pract. 2010;26:564–71. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Cerebral Palsy

Benda W, McGibbon NH, Grant KL. Improvements in muscle symmetry in children with cerebral palsy after equine-assisted therapy (hippotherapy) J Altern Complement Med. 2003; 9:817–25. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Shurtleff TL, Engsberg JR. Changes in trunk and head stability in children with cerebral palsy after hippotherapy : a pilot study. Phys Occup Ther Pediatr. 2010;30:150–63. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Žalienė, L et al. “Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Riding for Children with Cerebral Palsy Gross Motor Functions.” BioMed research international 2018 (2018): 1–6. Web.
Ten riding lessons did not have an influence on the beginner riders with cerebral palsy gross motor functions and their gross motor function level did not change. However, in half of the advanced riders with cerebral palsy, the gross motor functions significantly improved. [Hindawi]

Antunes, Fabiane Nunes et al. “Different Horse’s Paces During Hippotherapy on Spatio-Temporal Parameters of Gait in Children with Bilateral Spastic Cerebral Palsy: A Feasibility Study.” Research in developmental disabilities 59 (2016): 65–72. Web.
The comparisons between BS-CP and the reference group found differences in all spatio-temporal parameters, except for gait velocity. Within-group analysis of children with BS-CP showed that the swing phase did not change after the walk pace and after the walk-trot pace. The percentage of rolling phase and double support improved after the walk-trot. The spasticity of the hip adductors was significantly reduced as an immediate result of both protocols, but this decrease was more evident after the walk-trot. The walk-trot protocol is feasible and is able to induce an immediate effect that improves the gait spatio-temporal parameters and the hip adductors spasticity. [Science Direct]

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 and child neurology 53.8 (2011): 684–691. Web.
A positive effect was shown in 21 of the children with CP in the comparison group regardless of the activity undertaken (i.e. physiotherapy, occupational therapy, sitting on a barrel or in an artificial saddle). The pooled effect size estimate was positive (OR 25.41, 95% CI 4.35, 148.53), demonstrating a statistically significant effectiveness of hippotherapy or THR in children with CP (p<0.001). Meta‐regression of study characteristics revealed no study‐specific factors. Interpretation: The eight studies found that postural control and balance were improved during hippotherapy and THR. Although the generalization of our findings may be restricted by the relatively small sample size, the results clearly demonstrate that riding therapy is indicated to improve postural control and balance in children with CP. [Wiley]

Kwon JY, Chang HJ, Yi SH, Lee JY, Shin HY, Kim YH. Effect of hippotherapy on gross motor function in children with cerebral palsy:a randomized controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2015;21:15–21. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Borgi, Marta et al. “Effectiveness of a Standardized Equine-Assisted Therapy Program for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 46.1 (2016): 1–9. Web.
Improved executive functioning was also observed (i.e. reduced planning time in a problem-solving task) at the end of the EAT program. Our findings provide further support for the use of animal-assisted intervention programs as complementary intervention strategies for children with ASD. [Pubmed]

Hameury, L et al. “Equine-Assisted Therapy and Autism.” Annales médico psychologiques 168.9 (2010): 655–. Web
The objective is to apply the principles and therapeutic techniques developed for the developmental disorders of the child in an extra-hospital setting, a soothing and playful atmosphere, and with the help of the horse as a mediator. The results show a clear improvement from the first equi-therapy session. All functions involved in development are improved, especially those concerning communication, imitation, perceptual, emotional and motor regulation. [Science Direct]

Rydzkowski, Wendy. “‘It’s Not Just About the Horses at Equine!’: Exploring Perceptions of Equine Assisted Therapy with Adolescents with Autism, Their Staff and Therapy Providers.” ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2017. Print.
The Equine Assisted therapy gave a context for experiential learning; it promoted emotional regulation, and it enhanced emotional wellbeing. Instead of asking why the benefits of such therapy do not necessarily extend to other settings, the researcher poses the question of how it might be possible to apply points made about Equine Assisted therapy to school -based, and general life experiences. [ORCA]

Llambias, Cecilia et al. “Equine-Assisted Occupational Therapy: Increasing Engagement for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder.” The American journal of occupational therapy 70.6 (2016): 7006220040p1–. Web.
The children showed improvements in engagement. Including horses in occupational therapy sessions may be a valuable addition to conventional treatments to increase task engagement of children with ASD. [Gale] [AJOT]

Peters, B. Caitlin. “Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapies for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.” ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2018. Print.
In the systematic mapping review, five types of equine-assisted activities were identified across 25 studies, with reported improvements in behavior, social interaction, and communication. Four types of equine-assisted therapies were identified across eight studies, with reported improvements in motor control and self-care. Guided by findings, we propose that a) equine movement, manipulated by a therapist, challenges and improves postural control, and that an equine-assisted activity or therapy can, b) promote engagement, a platform for social development, and c) provide structured support for social interaction and positively reinforce communication. Derived from interview data, a concept map of therapists’ clinical reasoning delineates hypothesized mechanisms of change, including the role of the horse, that lead to improvements in the following outcomes: a) cognitive skills, b) motor skills, c) attention and engagement during therapy, d) social interaction, e) communication, f) behavior, and g) safety. One type of EAAT, OTee, is a highly individualized intervention that requires clinical reasoning to incorporate the unique affordances of the equine environment into individualized occupational therapy; when tailored to the individual needs of children with ASD, OTee may improve occupational performance, hyperactivity, irritability, social communication, and social motivation. [Springer Link]

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