Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Physical Therapy (MPT)


Physical Therapy

First Advisor

Beverly Johnson


Cerebral Palsy -- therapy; Horses; Hippotherapy


Therapeutic horseback riding programs have grown rapidly since 1969, when the first center opened in Michigan. Although therapeutic riding is a growing adjunctive therapy procedure, the claims that the program facilitates musculoskeletal and physiological improvements have never been objectively examined against a control group. The purpose of this independent study was to measure the effect of therapeutic horseback riding compared to traditional therapy on range of motion, pulmonary function, balance and muscle tone in children with cerebral palsy.

Twelve children underwent assessments according to the repeated measures design. Six children who received traditional therapy served as a control group, while the experimental group was compromised of six children who received therapeutic riding. Data was gathered prior to, and at the cessation of, the designated six week program. Results indicate that balance was significantly improved after the therapeutic riding sessions as compared to traditional therapy. A statistically significant decrease in bilateral hip abductor and right shoulder flexion muscle tone was also found at the conclusion of the therapeutic riding program. Although not statistically significant, also noted toward increased range of a strong trend was motion and forced expiratory volume for children in the experimental group.

Therapeutic riding appeared to improve balance and to reduce tone in certain muscle groups for children with cerebral palsy. Further study is warranted to isolate additional variables, and examine the effects of therapeutic riding on different disabilities.