We’ve covered the science behind the use of horses in physical and mental health therapies for years. And while it’s not new, more academic and scientific studies are being published that confirm what most of us horse owners and horse lovers already knew: that riding is therapeutic. The benefits of being around horses, grooming, and riding, are well documented. Mental health conditions such as PTSD have been helped in thousands of individuals who have entered Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT).
However, a new study has confirmed that riding horses is also a viable treatment for patients with cerebral palsy (CP). The research concluded that riding horses can improve functional mobility in children who are living with the neurological condition. CP is a collection of neurological disorders that affect balance, movement, and muscle coordination, which can result in unusual gaits and an inability to maintain posture. Finding ways to offset these issues can help give a child a higher quality of life.
The researchers hailed from Korea and the United States on this joint study. The team observed four children with CP during eight physical therapy sessions. Sensors were placed on the horses and children to record movement, acceleration and “angular velocity.” The scientists discovered that as time went on, the horses and children’s data became synchronized. At the end of each session the children were also given mobility tests to assess improvement.
“We found that physical interaction between the children with CP and the horses, characterized by the children adapting to the horse’s movement and vice versa, is extremely important for the rehabilitation to be effective,” explains Dr. Pilwon Hur who lead the study from the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in Korea.
Given that two out of every 1,000 children are affected by CP worldwide, proving a therapy to benefit these kids is a remarkable achievement. Dr. Hur hopes the study will give other researchers a baseline for continued research.