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Effects of therapeutic horse-riding program on the walking ability of students with intellectual disabilities

By Ok-Deuk Kang

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The purpose of this study was to determine if an 8-week therapeutic riding (TR) program was effective in improving the walking ability of students with intellectual disabilities. Thirteen students diagnosed with intellectual disabilities participated in the TR program. TR sessions were conducted twice a week (30 min per session), with a total of 16 rides taking place over an 8-week period. A gait measurement analyzer was used to measure progress based on a turn test (6-m walking and turning test), walk test (10-m walking), and timed up and go (TUG) test. Measurements were made three times: before horse-riding (P0), after 4 weeks (8 rides) of horse-riding (P1), and after 8 weeks (16 rides) of horse-riding (P2). Data analysis was conducted using SPSS software (ver. 22.0). Descriptive statistics were generated on the general characteristics of the subjects, and the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test was used to verify the normality of the data. Because of the lack of normality, the data were analyzed using a nonparametric method and the significance level was set to 0.05. Measurements of the duration of the forward gait cycle (s) in the turn test and the forward gait speed (m/s) in the walk test indicated improved walking ability after the TR program (p < 0.001); the stride length (% height) also increased significantly (p < 0.05). The walk test revealed a significant effect of the program on the duration of the forward gait cycle (p < 0.05), while there were significant improvements on the left and right of the elaborated strides (p < 0.001). No significant improvement in TUG test performance was observed after the TR program. In this study, an 8-week TR program had positive results on gait. Therefore, further research is merited, where TR programs are likely to improve the walking ability of individuals with intellectual disabilities.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2021
Publication Title Journal of Animal Science and Technology
Volume 63
Issue 2
Pages 440-452
DOI 10.5187/jast.2021.e22
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted activities
  2. Animal-assisted therapies
  3. Gait
  4. Horses
  5. Intellectual disabilities
  6. Mammals
  7. open access
  8. Therapeutic horsemanship
  1. open access