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Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Feb 13;17(4). pii: E1213. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17041213.

Parental Perception of Changes in Basic Life Needs of Children with Disabilities after Six Months of Therapeutic Horseback Riding: A Qualitative Study.

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Faculty of Dental Medicine and Health Osijek, Josip Juraj Strossmayer University of Osijek, 31 000 Osijek, Croatia.
University Hospital Centre Osijek, 31 000 Osijek, Croatia.
Faculty of Medicine, Josip Juraj Strossmayer University of Osijek, 31 000 Osijek, Croatia.
Elementary School Ljudevit Gaj Osijek, 31 000 Osijek, Croatia.
Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Zagreb, 10 000 Zagreb, Croatia.


Therapeutic horseback riding (THR) has a positive effect on the physical, cognitive, and psychosocial functioning of children with disabilities. Parents' reports of the effects of THR on their children support professionals in individualizing the THR program. With this qualitative study, we aimed to explore parents' perceptions of changes in the basic life needs of their children with disabilities after six months of THR lessons and to survey parents' explanations for the causes of these changes. The study involved parents of 13 children with disabilities who were enrolled in a six-month THR program. Parents continuously monitored their children and wrote a report on possible changes in their child's needs according to Virginia Henderson's need theory. Qualitative content analysis of parents' reports indicated only positive changes in 11 children. Most codes were identified in categories "relationships and communication with other people" and "movement and posturing". Other categories identified codes such as easier breathing, a better quality of sleep, better appetite, better elimination of stool and urine, more independence in clothing and maintaining personal hygiene, and greater interest in play and learning. Parents' reports are further supported by the assessments of professionals. Most parents think THR is responsible for the noticeable improvements in their children's quality of life.


basic life needs; children with disabilities; equine-assisted therapy; horseback riding; parent–child relations; quality of life

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