Hippotherapy-an intervention to habilitate balance deficits in children with movement disorders: A clinical trial

Debbie J. Silkwood-Sherer, Clyde B. Killian, Toby M. Long, Kathy S. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Background. Clinical observations have suggested that hippotherapy may be an effective strategy for habilitating balance deficits in children with movement disorders. However, there is limited research to support this notion. Objective. The purposes of this study were to assess the effectiveness of hippotherapy for the management of postural instability in children with mild to moderate balance problems and to determine whether there is a correlation between balance and function. Design. A repeated-measures design for a cohort of children with documented balance deficits was used. Methods. Sixteen children (9 boys and 7 girls) who were 5 to 16 years of age and had documented balance problems participated in this study. Intervention consisted of 45-minute hippotherapy sessions twice per week for 6 weeks. Two baseline assessments and 1 postintervention assessment of balance, as measured with the Pediatric Balance Scale (PBS), and of function, as measured with the Activities Scale for Kids-Performance (ASKp), were performed. Results. With the Friedman analysis of variance, the PBS and the ASKp were found to be statistically significant across all measurements (P<.0001 for both measures). Post hoc analysis revealed a statistical difference between baseline and postintervention measures (P ≤.017). This degree of difference resulted in large effect sizes for PBS (d=1.59) and ASKp (d=1.51) scores after hippotherapy. A Spearman rho correlation of.700 indicated a statistical association between PBS and ASKp postintervention scores (P-.003). There was no correlation between the change in PBS scores and the change in ASKp scores (r s-.13, P>.05). Limitations. Lack of a control group and the short duration between baseline assessments are study limitations. Conclusions. The findings suggest that hippotherapy may be a viable strategy for reducing balance deficits and improving the performance of daily life skills in children with mild to moderate balance problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)707-717
Number of pages11
JournalPhysical Therapy
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2012


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