An exploration of German and British physiotherapists' views on the effects of Hippo therapy and their measurement

Author(s): Debuse D, Chandler C, Gibb C


Hippotherapy (Greek hippos = horse) is a specialised physiotherapy treatment that makes use of the horses' unique three-dimensional movement impulses at a walk to facilitate movement responses in patients sitting on the horse's back (Strauss, 2000). Despite a substantial body of anecdotal and clinical evidence for its benefits, research evidence for hippotherapy is sparse. This questionnaire survey was the first study in a series of investigations exploring the views of physiotherapists and people with cerebral palsy who use hippotherapy. These investigations, in turn, form the basis from which the authors will recommend outcome measures for individuals with cerebral palsy in a hippotherapy environment. This study aimed to: (a) establish the pattern of hippotherapy practice in Germany and the U.K.; (b) examine the perceived main effects of hippotherapy on people with cerebral palsy in Germany and the U.K.; and (c) investigate how these effects are being measured in both countries. The results highlighted considerable differences in how hippotherapy is practised in the U.K. compared with in Germany. In spite of this, the study revealed agreement among respondents on the overall perceived effects of hippotherapy on individuals with cerebral palsy, namely, the regulation of muscle tone, improvement of postural control and psychological benefits. The results also indicate scant use of outcome measures to evaluate these effects. The impact of these findings is discussed in the light of published research, and suggestions for further research are made.

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