Therapeutic horse riding improves coordination in Down syndrome children – study

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Therapeutic horse riding has shown its value in improving the overall motor coordination of children with Down Syndrome.

The findings of the Brazilian study have been reported in the journal Fisioterapia em Movimento (Physiotherapy in Movement).

Valéria Sovat de Freitas Costa and her colleagues set out in their study to analyze the effects of a hippotherapy program on global motor coordination variables in individuals with Down Syndrome and to compare them with individuals with the same syndrome who do not undertake horse-riding therapy.

Forty-one individuals, aged 6 to 14, took part, with 20 of them undertaking horse-riding therapy and the other 21 not.

Participants were assessed using the German Körperkoordinations test für Kinder (the Body Coordination Test for Children), which assesses children’s ability to balance on a beam, carry out single-footed jumping, sideways jumping, and transfer on platforms.

The research team found a significant difference between the groups.

“The individuals that practiced hippotherapy presented better results in global motor coordination,” they reported.

Among those who took part in horse riding, 5% were assessed as having high global motor coordination, 40% were rated as good and 55% were assessed as normal.

In the non-riding group, none were assessed as having high global motor coordination, only 10% were rated good, and 90% were assessed as normal.

Equine therapy, they concluded, improved global motor coordination, which was especially noticeable on the balance beam and in the jumping tasks.

“Individuals who practice hippotherapy perform better in tests that involve balance, laterality, energy, strength and speed when compared to individuals with the same syndrome who do not perform hippotherapy,” the authors reported.

“The present study showed that horse therapy has great influence on the variables of motor coordination and respiratory muscle strength in individuals with Down syndrome.

“Although the time and number of sessions required by hippotherapy for motor coordination responses have not yet been reported in the literature, it is concluded that the longer the activity, the better the overall motor coordination.”

The full study team comprised Valéria Sovat de Freitas Costa, Hudday Mendes da Silva, Monique de Azevêdo, André Ribeiro da Silva, Ludmila Lucena Pereira Cabral and Jonatas de França Barro, variously affiliated with four Brazilian universities.

Costa, Valéria Sovat de Freitas, Silva, Hudday Mendes da, Azevêdo, Monique de, Silva, André Ribeiro da, Cabral, Ludmila Lucena Pereira, & Barros, Jonatas de França. (2017). Effect of hippotherapy in the global motor coordination in individuals with Down Syndrome. Fisioterapia em Movimento, 30(Suppl. 1), 229-240. https://dx.doi.org/10.1590/1980-5918.030.s01.ao22

The study, published under a Creative Commons License, can be read here

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