Horse-based therapy helped patients with multiple sclerosis – study

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The use of horse-based therapy along with standard care was found to improve several key measures in people with multiple sclerosis when compared to those given standard care alone.

The findings of the German study have been reported in the journal Multiple Sclerosis.

University of Cologne researcher Vanessa Vermöhlen and her colleagues noted that evidence-based complementary treatment options for multiple sclerosis were limited.

The study team set out to explore the effect of hippotherapy plus standard care versus standard care alone in patients with multiple sclerosis, a disease in which the immune system attacks the protective covering of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

Seventy adults with the disease were recruited in five German centers and were split into two groups. One group received standard care only − the control group − while the other received 12 weeks of hippotherapy as well as standard care.

Following the 12 weeks, all patients were assessed on the Berg Balance Scale, as well as recognized measures of fatigue, pain, quality of life, and spasticity (muscle contraction) to see whether there was any change from the start.

Hippotherapy plus standard care, while below the threshold of a minimal clinically important difference, significantly improved balance, and also fatigue, spasticity, and quality of life in patients, the authors reported.

The study team comprised Vermöhlen, Petra Schiller, Sabine Schickendantz, Marion Drache, Sabine Hussack, Andreas Gerber-Grote and Dieter Pöhlau. The researchers are with a range of German institutions.

Hippotherapy for patients with multiple sclerosis: A multicenter randomized controlled trial (MS-HIPPO)
Vanessa Vermöhlen, Petra Schiller, Sabine Schickendantz, Marion Drache, Sabine Hussack, Andreas Gerber-Grote, Dieter Pöhlau

The abstract can be read here

One thought on “Horse-based therapy helped patients with multiple sclerosis – study

  • September 1, 2017 at 12:35 am

    I have MS. I was diagnosed 24 years ago. 20 years ago I had to use an electric wheelchair to move more than twenty or so feet. I started riding seriously 47 years ago. Though I had several horses at the time I was diagnosed I had not been able to get it all together to ride for years. I have VERY bad balance, no proprioceptive sense, I get exhausted rapidly (I cannot ride for more than 30 minutes), I have great difficulty in coordinating different parts of my body, and I often have hand tremors.

    Now, after 10 years of riding lessons (at a regular riding stable), I never bothered to replace my electric wheelchair after it wore out. I mostly use my wheeled walker to move my saddle. I mostly use 2 canes for mobility, but if I have to I can walk several hundred yards with NO mobility aids.

    My riding teacher has been instrumental for keeping me walking. I told her at my first lesson that I NEEDED to be taught a proper Forward Seat position so I could learn how to keep my balance and keep my weight over my feet. Over the years I went from using my electric wheelchair a lot, especially outside and at work, to using a wheeled walker, to using just 2 canes to keep my balance, to being able to walk around my house without any help. If I had not gotten my riding lessons there is a good possibility that I would not be able to walk considering how I was deteriorating before I started my lessons.

    My riding teacher is all for helping me walk! There have been times where I arrived at the stable unannounced because I had an MS exacerbation (attack) and I was having GREAT DIFFICULTY with walking, using two canes and shuffling over the ground. After 30 minutes of riding my walking improved enough so I could confidently stride back to the barn and being able to walk short distances without my canes, and I continued to be able to walk confidently even while the exacerbation continued. Without the horses and my riding teacher I would probably be in a nursing home.

    I ride 3 times a week, weather permitting, usually on 3 different horses, for 30 minutes at a time. I BLESS my riding teacher and the horses for giving me back my ability to walk on my own two feet!


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