Can hippotherapy make a difference in the quality of life of children with cerebral palsy? A pragmatic study

Debbie J. Silkwood-Sherer, Nancy H. McGibbon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine if the addition of 12 weekly therapy sessions, incorporating hippotherapy as the primary intervention to each child’s usual therapy program, will improve balance, participation, and quality of life. Methods: Pragmatic, multi-center, randomized, controlled trial of 13 children with cerebral palsy (CP), ages 3 to 6 years. A treatment group received 12 weeks of weekly hippotherapy intervention in addition to their usual therapy. A control group continued with their usual therapy only. Assessments were completed for the treatment group pre-intervention (P0), post intervention (P1), and 12 weeks post no intervention (P2). Control group assessments occurred in the same timeframe: baseline, 12 weeks and 24 weeks. Results: The only significant difference between the groups, post intervention, was on the Pediatric Balance Scale (PBS). Within group analysis showed no significant changes for the control group between any pretest/posttest measures. The treatment group demonstrated significant improvement on the PBS (P0-P1, p = .02; P0-P2, p = .02) and Activities Scale for Kids (P0-P1, p = .02; P0-P2, p = .02) with delayed improvement on the 1 Minute Walk Test (P1-P2, p = .02) and Pediatric Quality of Life–CP Module (P0-P2, p = .03). Conclusions: Improvements in balance in children with CP may promote increased participation and quality of life when hippotherapy is added to their treatment plan.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)390-400
Number of pages11
JournalPhysiotherapy Theory and Practice
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022


  • Hippotherapy
  • balance
  • cerebral palsy
  • participation
  • quality of life


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