This study aims to examine whether hippotherapy has a clinically significant effect on gross motor function in children with cerebral palsy (CP). It designed as randomized controlled trial in the outpatient therapy center. Ninety-two children with CP, aged 4–10 years, presenting variable function (Gross Motor Function Classification System [GMFCS] levels I–IV) participated.
Pre- and post-treatment measures were completed by 91 children (45 in the intervention group and 46 in the control group). Differences in improvement on all three measures significantly differed between groups after the 8-week study period. Dimensions of GMFM-88 improved significantly after hippotherapy varied by GMFCS level: dimension E in level I, dimensions D and E in level II, dimensions C and D in level III, and dimensions B and C in level IV.
In conclusion hippotherapy positively affects gross motor function and balance in children with CP of various functional levels. This study appears to be the first randomized controlled trials (RCT) showing the beneficial effects of hippotherapy on gross motor function in children with CP. In conclusion, this study demonstrated the beneficial effects of hippotherapy on gross motor function and balance in children with CP. Hippotherapy provided by licensed health professionals may be used in conjunction with standard physical therapy for improving gross motor function and balance in children with CP at various functional levels.