The Effect of Hippotherapy

Elizabeth Oakley (Physical Therapy)

The effect of hippotherapy on hypertonicity as measured by the HAT scale (Hypertonia Assessment Tool) Modified Ashworth Tool and gait speed

Purpose: Hypertonia is an increase in the normal resting tone of the muscles resulting in rigidity and spasticity of the involved muscles making functional tasks such as walking, dressing, and activities of daily living, difficult to accomplish. Hippotherapy is the use of a horse to help with treatment goals and is used to treat hypertonia. There is currently not enough measurable evidence of it’s effectiveness.  Research demonstrating the effectiveness of hippotherapy would establish this treatment as a viable option for the treatment of hypertonia and provide needed evidence for potential funding and resources for hippotherapy centers and its clients. The purpose of this study is to determine if hippotherapy is an effective treatment method for decreasing tone and improving gait speed in children and adolescents with hypertonia.  Subjects: Thirty male or female adolescents between the ages of 4-19 years will be selected through purposive sampling. Methods: For each subject, a trained hippotherapy physical therapist will perform a baseline assessment of hypertonia utilizing the HAT and Ashworth scale and assess gait speed. The subject will then receive a 15-35 minute hippotherapy treatment and a post-assessment of the dependent variables will be done at 2-week intervals over an 8-week period.  Data Analysis: Descriptive data will be analyzed using frequencies, means, and standard deviation. A Wilcoxin test will be used to assess the differences between pre and post measurements. Repeated measures ANOVA will examine changes over time with the level of significance set at <0.05 with SPSS used to calculate statistics.


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