Publication: Effect of hippotherapy on balance, functional mobility, and functional independence in children with Down syndrome: randomized controlled trial.
Impaired muscle strength, proprioceptive and vestibular deficits, and orthopedic dysfunction are common disorders associated with Down syndrome (DS). Hippotherapy uses the horses' multidimensional movement to improve posture, balance, and overall function, both motor and sensory. Research evidence supports hippotherapy as an effective, medically recognized intervention for the rehabilitation of gross motor skills. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of hippotherapy on balance, functional mobility, and functional independence in children with DS. Thirty-four children with DS were randomly assigned to the experimental (hippotherapy) and control groups after the initial assessment. Both groups received physiotherapy including balance exercises, and the experimental group also received hippotherapy as an integrative therapy. Pediatric Balance Scale (PBS), Timed Up and Go Test (TUG), and Functional Independence Measure for Children (WeeFIM) were used before and after the intervention. Baseline outcome measures (PBS, TUG, WeeFIM) were statistically similar between groups (p > 0.05). After the intervention, PBS and TUG scores improved in both groups (p < 0.05). On the other hand, WeeFIM scores improved just in the hippotherapy group (p < 0.05). Conclusion: Therefore, providing hippotherapy as an integrative therapy to physiotherapy will be more effective in improving the functional independence of children with DS. Trial registration: NCT05297149 (March 2022, retrospectively registered). What is Known: • Hippotherapy has an improvement effect on balance and functional independence in different diseases and age groups, but the evidence is limited in DS. • There is limited evidence about the effect of hippotherapy on functional mobility in different diseases and age groups, but there is no evidence in DS. What is New: • Hippotherapy is a safe and effective approach to support improvement in functional independence in children with DS.