Therapeutic horse riding is a viable option to help people with balance, gait, and psychomotor disorders, a scientific review and analysis concludes.
Researchers from the School of Medicine at the University of Ioannina in Greece reviewed studies in the field which they had sourced through online databases, setting several criteria for inclusion, including that appropriate controls were used.
Alexandra Stergiou and her colleagues included 16 trials in their review, half of which assessed the effect of hippotherapy and therapeutic riding in children with cerebral palsy.
“Most of the studies showed a trend toward a beneficial effect of therapeutic riding and hippotherapy on balance and gross motor function,” the researchers reported in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation.
The evidence pointed to improvements in balance and gross motor function measure.
“Programs such as therapeutic riding and hippotherapy are a viable intervention option for patients with balance, gait, and psychomotor disorders,” they said.
Equine-assisted activities and therapies potentially provided advantages for cognitive, emotional and social well-being, they added. “Individuals who participate have the opportunity to simultaneously experience, benefit and enjoy the outdoors, which might not otherwise be readily available.”
The research team said they found there were few studies about therapeutic riding and hippotherapy in the international literature. In most studies, the number of participants were too small to draw reliable conclusions.
Of the 16 trials, only eight included appropriate data for further comparative meta-analysis.
“Overall, although the literature reports the positive impacts of therapeutic riding programs on participants with neuromotor, developmental, and physical disabilities, there is a need to quantify the efficacy of such programs on the daily activity and participation level of such individuals, as well as the increase in their self-competence and quality of life,” they said.
Therapeutic Effects of Horseback Riding Interventions – A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis
Alexandra Stergiou, Meropi Tzoufi, Evangelia Ntzani, Dimitrios Varvarousis, Alexandros Beris, and Avraam Ploumis.
Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2017 DOI: 10.1097/PHM.0000000000000726
The full study can be read in PDF form via a link on this page.