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Hippotherapy and therapeutic riding (TR) provide pleasurable activity and physical exercise to individuals and yet limited study is available on its therapeutic value to improve balance in older adults. In this study, the researchers measured the benefit of TR on balance and quality of life in communitydwelling older adults. A convenience sample of individuals 65 years and older was recruited from a local community. The study is a single-blind, pretest-posttest, controlled study of a 10-session TR program with a Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) trained and certified TR instructor. Each TR session included grooming and tacking, mounting, a warm-up exercise on the horse, riding, and dismounting. The results of this study showed a significant improvement in balance scores as well as participant perception of overall health after the intervention period. Therefore, this study illustrated the practicality, safety, and benefit on improvement of balance in community-dwelling older adults from a short-term TR program. However, the small sample size prevented the data from being conclusive. Larger scale studies should be conducted to clinically prove the benefit of therapeutic riding for older adults.

Therapeutic riding has the potential to improve balance and increase quality of life in older adults. Connecting the results from this study to the larger issue of fall prevention may provide evidence to include hippotherapy or TR in occupational therapy for older adults with balance deficits.


A product of the American Occupational Therapy Association's Evidence-based Literature Review Project.


Copyright © 2016 American Occupational Therapy Association. All Rights Reserved. Reproduced here with permission.

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Originally published as: Yasar, S., Mrsny L., Beeman, K., Moon, Skyler., & Li, K (2015).Does therapeutic horseback riding decrease balance deficits in community-dwelling older adults?[Critically Appraised Paper]. Bethesda, MD: American Occupational Therapy Association, Evidence-Based Practice Project.