Neurological Disorders

Hippotherapy acute impact on heart rate variability non-linear dynamics in neurological disorders

Cabiddu, Borghi-Silva, Trimer, Trimer, Ricci, Monteiro, Maniglia, Pereira, Rodrigues das Chagas, Carvalho

Physiology and Behavior (2016) 


Neurological disorders are associated with autonomic dysfunction. Hippotherapy (HT) is a therapy treatment strategy that utilizes a horse in an interdisciplinary approach for the physical and mental rehabilitation of people with physical, mental and/or psychological disabilities. However, no studies have been carried out which evaluated the effects of HT on the autonomic control in these patients. Therefore, the objective of the present study was to investigate the effects of a single HT session on cardiovascular autonomic control by time domain and non-linear analysis of heart rate variability (HRV). 


We observed that SampEn increased during P3 (SampEn=0.56±0.10) with respect to P1 (SampEn=0.40±0.14, p<0.05), while DFA decreased during P3 (DFA=1.10±0.10) with respect to P1 (DFA=1.26±0.14, p<0.05). A significant SDRR increase (p<0.05) was observed during the recovery period P4 (SDRR=50±30ms) with respect to the HT session period P3 (SDRR=30±10ms). 


Our results suggest that HT might benefit children with disabilities attributable to neurological disorders by eliciting an acute autonomic response during the therapy and during the recovery period.


Hippotherapy effects on trunk, pelvic, and hip motion during ambulation in children with neurological impairments

Encheff JL, Armstrong C, Masterson M, Fox C, Gribble P

Pediatric Phys Therapy (2012) 


This study investigated the effects of a 10-week hippotherapy program on trunk, pelvis, and hip joint positioning during the stance phase of gait.


Significant improvements (P ≤ .008) and large effect sizes (ESs) for sagittal plane hip positions at initial contact and toe-off were found. No differences in pelvic or trunk positioning were determined, although sagittal plane pelvic positioning displayed a trend toward improvement with large ESs. Several trunk variables displayed moderate ESs with a trend toward more upright positioning.


Improvements in pelvic and hip joint positioning and more normalized vertical trunk position may indicate increased postural control during gait after 10 sessions of hippotherapy.

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