Usefulness of hippotherapy

Pichon Riviere A, Augustovski F, Alcaraz A, Bardach A, Ferrante D, Garcia Marti S, Glujovsky D, Lopez A, Regueiro A
Record ID 32006000842
Authors' objectives:

The aim of this report was to analyze the scientific evidence available on the efficacy and safety of hippotherapy as a rehabilitation strategy for different pathologies.

Authors' results and conclusions: 3 controlled clinical trials, 27 non controlled studies or case reports and 2 additional studies which used an alternative to hippotherapy were found. One controlled study analyzed the progress of 17 patients who receive hippotherapy after undergoing a nucleotomy (low back intervertebral disc surgery) in comparison with 16 patients who underwent the same surgery but with conventional follow-up. Improvement was observed in the patient's self-assessment as regards their post-surgical condition as well as a reduction in the time to return to work. In another controlled study, 15 patients with spastic cerebral palsy between 4 and 12 years old were randomized to receive 8-minute sessions of hippotherapy or 8-minute sessions of riding on a fixed barrel (control group). After the sessions, the trunk and upper limbs muscle activity was measured with a surface electromyogram. The authors reported a tendency towards improvement in the symmetry of muscle activity of those patients receiving hippotherapy. The biggest controlled study, randomized 100 patients between 3 and 14 years old with cerebral palsy to hippotherapy vs. gym. The patients were assessed using a score developed by the authors which measures functional ability as regards movement, balance and spasticity. Improvement was observed in both groups once the intervention was completed, which was better in the hippotherapy group. Among the non-controlled studies, 9 whose main indication was muscle spasticity related to cerebral palsy and other 4 where the patients studied presented spasticity related to other neurological disabilities were identified. In general, these studies reported a varying extent of improvement in motor function, posture and gait with an increase in joint motility and reduction in muscle tone. The rest of the studies discussed several conditions, 5 of them related to the field of psychotherapy.
Authors' recommendations: In general, the analyzed studies present significant methodological and design problems: few patients, almost generalized absence of a control group, assessment and follow-up only at short term, among others. This significantly restricts the value of results and conclusions and prevents from adequately analyzing the role hippotherapy has in rehabilitation of several pathologies and conditions. The efficacy of this therapy does not seem to have been sufficiently proven for any specific indication. Its recreational role and impact on the quality of life of these patients have not been sufficiently analyzed.
Authors' methods: Overview
Project Status: Completed
URL for project:
Year Published: 2006
English language abstract: An English language summary is available
Publication Type: Not Assigned
Country: Argentina
MeSH Terms
  • Horses
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Exercise Therapy
Organisation Name: Institute for Clinical Effectiveness and Health Policy
Contact Address: Dr. Emilio Ravignani 2024, Buenos Aires - Argentina, C1414 CABA
Contact Name:
Contact Email:
Copyright: Institute for Clinical Effectiveness and Health Policy (IECS)
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