Horse therapy appears to benefit those with cerebral palsy, improving not only their stability and motor skills, but helping their psyche, according to researchers.
Cerebral palsy arises from brain damage during pregnancy or childbirth. It causes various types of disorders associated not only with the intellectual sphere but also the musculoskeletal system.
These can cause postural problems, as well as coordination, balance and muscle tension disorders.
Treatment is a continuous multidisciplinary process lasting throughout life.
Oliwia Cywińska and her colleagues in Poland set about examining scientific papers that explored the use of horse therapy for those with the condition.
They concluded that the use of horses was an effective therapy for those with cerebral palsy, complementing their rehabilitation.
It has many benefits,” they wrote in the Journal of Education, Health and Sport, “such as improved stability and walking parameters, improved motor skills and functioning.”
It also has a positive effect on their psyche, they found.
“It seems that its use may have a significant impact on their well-being and quality of life, if of course there are no contraindications.”
Horse riding in rehabilitation generally causes an increase in motivation in the therapeutic process, they said. “It is connected with increased self-esteem and reduction of emotional disorders.
“It awakens in patients undergoing this type of therapy a sense of responsibility and independence related to the care of the horse.
“Additionally, the rhythm of the horse’s walk and a pleasant feeling of rocking causes relaxation and calmness.
“Classes conducted with the horse contribute to stimulation in the cognitive and social zone.”
This kind of therapy forces individuals to leave home and get to know a new environment, they wrote. “It prevents isolation and develops the ability to cope with different life situations.”
The animals appear to help the development of human relationships.
“It gives a sense of attachment between a person and a horse, which can then be transferred to relations with people and improve interaction with another person.”
The beneficial effect of a horse, in particular for those with cerebral palsy, is that it controls muscle tension, strengthens flaccid muscles and relaxes shortened muscles, which prevents contractures.
The full review team comprised Cywińska, Szymon Gawrych, Aleksandra Białkowska, Blanka Budziejko,
Dariusz Dziarkowski, Daria Kurtyka, Gracjan Różański and Anna Maria Dobosiewicz, all with Nicolaus Copernicus University in Poland; and Nataliia Badiuk, with the State Enterprise Ukrainian Research Institute for Medicine of Transport, in Odesa, Ukraine.
Cywińska Oliwia, Gawrych Szymon, Białkowska Aleksandra, Budziejko Blanka, Dziarkowski Dariusz, Kurtyka Daria, Różański Gracjan, Dobosiewicz Anna Maria, Badiuk Nataliia.
Positive influence of hippotherapy on the process of improvement of children with cerebral palsy in children.
Journal of Education, Health and Sport. 2018;8(11):813-823. eISNN 2391-8306. DOI