This study is a modified review combined with a qualitative case study. An introduction to therapeutic riding and a summary of the effects in children with cerebral palsy is presented. The case study highlights experienced effects of horse riding therapy. Four children (4-18 years old) doing horse riding therapy as part of their rehabilitation treatment at Beitostølen Helsesportssenter, Norway, participate in the case study. Collection of data is based on observations of horse therapy lessons and in depth interviews with children and a parent, in all cases mum.
Therapeutic riding is a form of physiotherapy utilizing the movements of the horse to facilitate neurophysiological stimulation on the rider. Trials of horse riding therapy suggest beneficial effects in children with cerebral palsy including antispastic effect, improvement in muscle symmetry and energy expenditure during walking and gross motor function. Improvements in coordination, balance and posture are indicated.
The case study reveals that children with cerebral palsy regard horse riding therapy as a funand exciting leisure activity. Bonding with the animal seem to facilitate wellbeing and a goodmood. Being able to ride and control the horse make them proud, and seem to increase confidence and self-esteem.
Medical professionals focus on the beneficial physiological effects of horse riding therapy in children with cerebral palsy. The children subjected to this therapy on the other hand emphasise the benefical effects related to psychology, self-esteem, fun and wellbeing.