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Percept Mot Skills. 2018 Feb;125(1):93-108. doi: 10.1177/0031512517736463. Epub 2017 Oct 26.

Equine Exercise in Younger and Older Adults: Simulated Versus Real Horseback Riding.

Kim MJ1,2, Kim T3,4, Oh S3,4, Yoon B3,4.

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1 Department of Mechanical Engineering, 34983 Kyung Hee University , Yongin, Korea.
2 Health Science Institute, 34973 Korea University , Seoul, Korea.
3 Major in Rehabilitation Science, Graduate School, 34973 Korea University , Seoul, Korea.
4 Department of Physical Therapy, College of Health Sciences, 34973 Korea University , Seoul, Korea.


Horseback riding is an effective exercise for improving postural control and balance. To reduce costs and improve accessibility, simulated horseback riding has been developed; but no differential effects of simulated and real horseback riding on muscle activation patterns in older adults have been studied. Thus, we compared muscle activation patterns for older and younger adults engaged in real and simulated horseback riding exercises, using surface electromyography recordings of the erector spinae, rectus abdominis, internal oblique abdominis, and rectus femoris muscles. We recorded muscle activity for three riding patterns: walk, slow trot, and fast trot. Muscle activation was uniformly higher for simulated (vs. real) horseback riding and increased from the walking pattern through slow and fast trot. There was no age effect, but among older participants, muscle activation was higher for simulated (vs. real) horseback riding across all gait types. Simulated and real riding produced a similar pattern of muscle activation of the thigh and trunk. These results demonstrate that simulated horseback riding can be an effective alternative to actual riding for increasing trunk and thigh muscle activation and improving postural control and balance, perhaps especially among older adults.


aging; core exercise; health promotion; hippotherapy; horseback riding exercise; horseback riding simulator

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