Original Research

The clinical effect of hippotherapy on gross motor function of children with Cerebral Palsy

K Litlle, N Nel, V Ortell, H van Wyk, M Badenhorst, Q Louw
South African Journal of Physiotherapy | Vol 69, No 2 | a321 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajp.v69i2.321 | © 2013 K Litlle, N Nel, V Ortell, H van Wyk, M Badenhorst, Q Louw | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 December 2013 | Published: 11 December 2013

About the author(s)

K Litlle, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
N Nel, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
V Ortell, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
H van Wyk, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
M Badenhorst, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Q Louw, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

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Background: Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common cause of physical disability affecting gross motor function (GMF ) in early childhood. Hippotherapy is a treatment approach aimed at improving GMF in children with CP. Several systematic reviews have been published showing an improvement in Dimension E of the Gross Motor Function Measure (GMFM ) after hippotherapy. However, these reviews failed to evaluate the clinical effect of hippotherapy in improving GMF in children with CP.

Objective: To critically appraise the evidence of hippotherapy to ascertain whether it is a clinically meaningful approach for children with CP.

Methodology: Five computerised bibliographic databases were searched. Predetermined inclusion and exclusion criteria were set. The PEDro scale was used to assess the quality of the studies. A revised JBI Data extraction tool was used to extract data from the selected articles. Revman© Review Manager Software was used to create forest plots for comparisons of results.

Results: All studies used the GMFM as an outcome measure for gross motor function. The added benefit of hippotherapy is a minimum 1% and a maximum 7% increase on the GMFM scores. However, all 95% confidence intervals (CI ) around all the mean differences were insignificant.

Conclusion: The clinical effect of hippotherapy on the GMF of children with CP is small. Larger studies are required to provide evidence of the effect of hippotherapy within this population.


Cerebra l pa lsy; Hipp otherap y; Therap eutic Hors eback Riding; Gr oss Motor Function


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