Children who suffer from the frequent spasms and muscle tensing that come with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy can be helped with hippotherapy, according to research sponsored by the Horses and Humans Research Foundation (HHRF). What is even better is that those positive changes can last for months after hippotherapy treatments end!
The initial question was whether hippotherapy could improve head/trunk stability and upper extremity function in children with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy. The study was conducted by researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine’s Program in Occupational Therapy.
The researchers looked at the ability of the children to keep the head and upper trunk relatively still while the pelvis was in rhythmic motion.
It was found that hippotherapy improved dynamic stability and head control in the children with cerebral palsy. The children also performed better when tested on touching a target when seated on a stool.
Perhaps one of the most astounding parts of this research was that the significant changes in all of those studied areas were maintained for 12 weeks after the hippotherapy ceased.
The persistence of those positive changes—even when the child with cerebral palsy was no longer receiving hippotherapy treatment—suggests that the motor control improvements learned on a horse might serve as a foundation upon which to build improved functional skills in other aspects of the child’s life.
You can learn more about the Horses and Humans Research Foundation (HHRF) and support ongoing research by visiting HorsesandHumans.org. The mission of the Horses and Humans Research Foundation is to provide scientific research that explores the claimed—but as-yet scientifically unsubstantiated—benefits of equine-assisted activities and therapies.