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Physiother Theory Pract. 2009 Apr;25(3):174-92. doi: 10.1080/09593980902776662.

Effects of hippotherapy on people with cerebral palsy from the users' perspective: a qualitative study.

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  • 1School of Health Community and Education Studies, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.


Although there is now some evidence for specific effects of hippotherapy on people with cerebral palsy, these studies fail to provide a comprehensive picture of the effects of hippotherapy. This was the first qualitative study to explore the hippotherapy experience of people with cerebral palsy from a user perspective. The effects of hippotherapy and their context were of particular interest. Seventeen users aged from 4 to 63, with or without their parents, participated in focus groups or individual interviews in six centres in Britain and in Germany. The main effects of hippotherapy, as identified by users and parents, are normalisation of muscle tone, improved trunk control, improved walking ability, carryover effects of hippotherapy to activities of daily living, and increased self-efficacy, confidence, and self-esteem. This study provided unique and new insights into the context in which hippotherapy happens, as well as its effects on impairment, activity, participation, and quality of life in people with cerebral palsy. The study's findings are integrated with the existing literature on motor learning and pedagogy to try to explain the complex effects of hippotherapy as reported by users and parents. A conceptual framework that illustrates these effects and their interactions is introduced.

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