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The effect of hippotherapy on selected posture elements and gait in a child with cerebral palsy

1 May 2003


Background and purpose. The horse has long been used as an adjunct to therapy and rehabilitation. Recent studies have shown significant correlation between the gait pattern of a horse and that of a human. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of a hippotherapy treatment program on gait parameters and postural righting. Methods. One subject with the diagnosis of hypotonic cerebral palsy was recruited and followed for sixteen weeks. Baseline gait parameters were gathered prior to the hippotherapy intervention. Treatment consisted of two hippotherapy sessions a week for the duration of eight weeks. During the intervention period, gait and postural data was obtained using
a gait mat and video-recording. Results. There was a significant increase in stride length differential and base of support (p < .035 and .004 respectively). There were no significant changes regarding cadence or stride length. Results showed a tendency toward increased postural righting responses throughout the intervention period. Discussion and Conclusion. The statistical analysis did not directly support the researchers' hypothesis that hippotherapy can effect the gait of a child with cerebral palsy. However, definite trends of improvement in double limb stance time and trunk righting responses were demonstrated.


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