Purpose: To investigate the use of horse assisted therapies, such as hippotherapy and horseback riding therapy, in children with developmental disabilities. Method: Hippotherapy treatments provided by physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech language pathologists at a local hippotherapy facility were observed throughout two mornings. A number of children receiving treatments were observed in order to assess the particular therapeutic strategies that were used during hippotherapy sessions. In addition, a Efficacy of Hippotherapy Questionnaire was developed with interview questions that related to the purpose and specific questions of this project. Results: Positive effects that can be measured both qualitatively and quantitatively were found through observation and questionnaires answered by therapists who provide hippotherapy services. Benefits observed and reported by three therapists who answered the questionnaire include improved gait, posture as well as improved trunk and head control. Other observed benefits included improved verbal expression post-treatment. Conclusion: The results of this research project found similar benefits for gross motor abilities, including gait, posture, trunk control and head control that are reported in the literature regarding hippotherapy and therapeutic horseback riding. Although the observations, questionnaires and literature report positive effects in children with developmental disabilities, the literature is limited by small sample sizes and many studies are nonrandomized. More research is needed to investigate other developmental disorders such as Down syndrome, developmental delay and autism spectrum disorders as most of the literature is in regards to cerebral palsy. This research project found both quantitative and qualitative effects that hippotherapy can provide for children with developmental disabilities.
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hippotherapy, developmental disabilities, children
Lovato, Robin. "Efficacy of Hippotherapy for Children with Developmental Disabilities." (2014). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/dpt/65
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