An article entitled, “Changes in Dynamic Trunk/Head Stability and Functional Reach after Hippotherapy” was published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.  The authors of the study, Tim Shurtleff (HHRF Scientific Committee), Dr. Jack Engsberg and Dr. John Standeven, found significant changes with large effects in head/trunk stability and reaching/targeting efficiency after 12 weeks of hippo therapy intervention.  Changes were retained after a 12-week washout period.  The study came to these conclusions:

The purpose of this investigation was to objectively evaluate the efficacy of hippotherapy in improving head/trunk stability and functional reaching in children with SDCP. We used a motorized barrel and kinematic measurements to quantify mo- tor learning affecting dynamic stability of the head/trunk and the speed and efficiency of functional reaching that occurred in children with CP resulting from a therapist using the rhythmic movement of a horse as a treatment tool. These changes were compared with a baseline of the same movement patterns measured in an age-matched group of children without disabil- ities. Subjects were also tested after an additional 12 weeks to determine if changes persisted after the intervention ceased. Results indicated that children with SDCP responded to a series of weekly experiences with the rhythmic movement of the horse by increasing motor control of their trunk and head. This improved control of the trunk stabilized the proximal founda- tion of the UEs and may account for the improvements we measured in the functional reach test. Changes in trunk/head stability and in reaching/targeting persisted for at least 3 months after the intervention ceased. These objective improve- ments in dynamic stability suggest that hippotherapy can pro- vide a valuable therapeutic tool in the practice of OT and PT that may enable improved function in many activities of ev- eryday life for children with CP. It appears that further use of this measurement model and further development of additional systematic and objective data about the results of hippotherapy intervention will further inform physicians, therapists, and third-party payers about the benefits of hippotherapy as an effective treatment strategy in the context of OT or PT for children with CP. “

To read the entire study, click here.