Kinematic effects of mechanical horse simulated hippotherapy.
Hippotherapy is the use of horseback riding as a form of therapy for a variety of disabilities such as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and autism. It is also known that hippotherapy can be beneficial for stroke patients and for people suffering lower back pain. Studies have shown that horses' walking patterns exhibit similarities to those of normal human gait, and can have positive effects on people with disabilities or injuries. The aim of this study was to measure and analyze the human body motion responses produced by non-disabled riders of a mechanical horse-riding simulator (MHS) that was developed at Baylor University. In addition, pre and post-test measures were analyzed to compare the after-effects of riding. During riding, the healthy riders' trunk motions tracked closely with the mechanical horse motion in all three anatomical planes. Balance tests showed that the riders, on average, decreased sway in the frontal and sagittal planes after riding, but increased yaw in the transverse plane. The results that the MHS can produce similar kinematic effects to that of a horse should be of interest for the purpose of broadening accessibility to the potential benefits of equine-like motion therapy.