Date of Award


Document Type

Distinction Paper

Degree Name

Allied Health-BS


Health & Sport Sciences


Shelley Payne, Ph.D.

First Committee Member

Steffanie Burk, Ph.D.


Therapeutic Riding, Developmental Disability, Gait, Hippotherapy

Subject Categories

Alternative and Complementary Medicine | Movement and Mind-Body Therapies | Other Rehabilitation and Therapy | Recreational Therapy | Therapeutics



The objective of this study was to investigate the changes that occur in the gait of a set of subjects after they ride a horse. Eleven riders with a developmental disability were selected and included in an experimental group and nineteen “typical” subjects or those without a developmental disability were included as a second comparison group. The length of time the subjects were able to remain standing in a tandem stance and in a one-legged stance without becoming unbalanced was measured and recorded. The stride length of the subject’s second and third step from heel to heel was also measured and recorded. These tests were performed before and after the first ride of the session for each subject. The experimental group was also re-measured after four weeks.

It was predicted that the data from the comparison group would be significantly different (p < 0.05) that the experimental group. Because of this, it was expected that the direction of change, to either the positive or negative, would be the same for both groups but that the magnitude of the comparison group’s data would demonstrate less change between the pre- and post-ride measurements. The researcher anticipated that after one ride there would be a significant negative change in the subject’s ability to balance but a significant positive change in their stride length and that after four weeks there would be a positive change in both elements. Over the course of four weeks, it was assumed that the experimental group would show a significant increase in all three variables both before and after riding.

The results from a series of independent t-tests indicate that the subjects represent two significantly different groups. Three mixed model ANOVA tests, found no statistical significance in any of the variables which refutes the prediction of a decrease in the balance measurements and an increase in the stride length measurements, over the four week time period. The only statistical significance that was found through a paired t-test was in the decrease between the before ride measurement of the stride length of the experimental group (p=0.046). All of the other variables were not found to be statistically significant. However, contrary to the prediction, there was a measured increase in the magnitude of the timed stork stance that could suggest clinical significance.