A randomized controlled trial of the impact of therapeutic horse riding on the quality of life, health, and function of children with cerebral palsy


Dr Elise Davis at McCaughey Centre, VicHealth Centre for the Promotion of Mental Health and Community Wellbeing, School of Population Health, Level 5, 207 Bouverie Street, University of Melbourne, Victoria-3010, Australia. E-mail: eda@unimelb.edu.au


This randomized controlled trial examined whether therapeutic horse riding has a clinically significant impact on the physical function, health and quality of life (QoL) of children with cerebral palsy (CP). Ninety-nine children aged 4 to 12 years with no prior horse riding experience and various levels of impairment (Gross Motor Function Classification System Levels I−III) were randomized to intervention (10wks therapeutic programme; 26 males, 24 females; mean age 7y 8mo [SD 2y 5mo] or control (usual activities, 27 males, 22 females; mean age 8y 2mo [SD 2y 6mo]). Pre- and post-measures were completed by 72 families (35 intervention and 37 control). Children’s gross motor function (Gross Motor Function Measure [GMFM]), health status (Child Health Questionnaire [CHQ]), and QoL (CP QoL-Child, KIDSCREEN) were assessed by parents and QoL was assessed by children before and after the 10-week study period. On analysis of covariance, there was no statistically significant difference in GMFM, CP QoL-Child (parent report and child self-report), and CHQ scores (except family cohesion) between the intervention and control group after the 10-week study period, but there was weak evidence of a difference for KIDSCREEN (parent report). This study suggests that therapeutic horse riding does not have a clinically significant impact on children with CP. However, a smaller effect cannot be ruled out and the absence of evidence might be explained by a lack of sensitivity of the instruments since the QoL and health measures have not yet been demonstrated to be sensitive to change for children with CP.