Background/Purpose: Cerebral palsy (CP) is the term used for a group of non-progressive disorders of movement and posture caused by abnormal development of, or damage to, motor control centers of the brain. CP is caused by events before, during, or after birth. The abnormalities of muscle control that define CP are often accompanied by other neurological and physical abnormalities. CP is not a specific diagnosis, but is more accurately considered a description of a broad but defined group of neurological and physical problems. Hippotherapy has become a popular intervention for children affected with CP. Hippotherapy is a physical, occupational, and speech-language therapy treatment strategy that utilizes equine movement as part of an integrated intervention program to achieve functional outcomes. The subject in this case study was Beth. Beth was a 14 year old female with a diagnosis of cerebral palsy. She had participated in hippotherapy since August 2011 and had demonstrated steady but slow progress. The purpose of this study was to determine if hippotherapy improves gross motor function in children with cerebral palsy. Case Description: The patient was a 14 year old female with a history of spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy. She had received early intervention services including physical, occupational and speech therapy in the past. Beth enjoyed horseback riding at home with the help of her family. Hippotherapy was recommended to her mother as a treatment strategy. Outcomes: Beth will continue with hippotherapy for a prolonged period of time. She has made significant progress since starting hippotherapy in August 2011 but demonstrates limited progress in the 8 weeks of intervention for this study. At the conclusion of this case study, Beth demonstrated an increase in core stability and an increase in control of her upper and lower extremities. The last two sessions of treatment, Beth required minimal cueing to grab the handle and during the sessions was able to hold onto the handle for greater than 15 minutes. This demonstrated significant progress in body awareness, motor control and her ability to quiet her body in order to control it. Beth still exhibited excessive extensor tone that effected her functional mobility and positioning. Discussion: Based both on the preponderance of research that was found as well as the case study that was performed, hippotherapy is a viable treatment approach for rehabilitating children with the diagnosis of cerebral palsy. The research that was analyzed was able to support the PICO question. Many positive changes where observed in Beth at the conclusion of this case study. In the future, hippotherapy may be recommended as a treatment approach to rehabilitate children with the diagnosis of cerebral palsy.


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Document Type



equine movement, hippotherapy, hippotherapy and cerebral palsy, hippotherapy and gross motor function

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