Immediate and Long-Term Effects of Hippotherapy on Symmetry of Adductor Muscle Activity and Functional Ability in Children With Spastic Cerebral Palsy

Nancy H. McGibbon, William Benda, Burris R. Duncan, Debbie Silkwood-Sherer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

84 Scopus citations


McGibbon NH, Benda W, Duncan BR, Silkwood-Sherer D. Immediate and long-term effects of hippotherapy on symmetry of adductor muscle activity and functional ability in children with spastic cerebral palsy. Objectives: To investigate the immediate effects of 10 minutes of hippotherapy, compared with 10 minutes of barrel-sitting, on symmetry of adductor muscle activity during walking in children with cerebral palsy (CP) (phase I). To investigate the long-term effects of 12 weeks of hippotherapy on adductor activity, gross motor function, and self-concept (phase II). Design: Pretest/posttest randomized controlled trial plus clinical follow-up. Setting: Outpatient therapy center. Participants: Children with spastic CP (phase I: n=47; phase II: n=6). Interventions: Phase I: 10 minutes of hippotherapy or 10 minutes of barrel-sitting; phase II: 12 weekly hippotherapy sessions. Main Outcome Measures: Phases I and II: adductor muscle activity measured by surface electromyography. Phase II: gross motor function and self-perception profiles. Results: Phase I: hippotherapy significantly improved adductor muscle asymmetry (P<.001; d=1.32). Effects of barrel-sitting were not significant (P>.05; d=.10). Phase II: after 12 weeks of hippotherapy, testing in several functional domains showed improvements over baseline that were sustained for 12 weeks posttreatment. Conclusions: Hippotherapy can improve adductor muscle symmetry during walking and can also improve other functional motor skills.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)966-974
Number of pages9
JournalArchives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2009



  • Cerebral palsy
  • Electromyography
  • Horses
  • Movement
  • Muscle spasticity
  • Rehabilitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation

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