Gross Motor Skills and Gait Performance in Two- and Three-year-old Children With Developmental Delay Participating in Hippotherapy

Heidi A. Brady, C. Roger James, Douglas W. Dendy, Tangela A. Irwin, Leslie D. Thompson, Tammy M. Camp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This study examined the effects of 15 sessions of hippotherapy (HPOT) on gross motor skills in children (aged 2–3 years) with gross motor developmental delay (DD) (n = 11) in comparison with age-based controls without DD (n = 6). Gross motor skills in both groups were assessed with the Battelle Developmental Inventory 2nd Edition, and gait parameters were measured using a computerized gait analysis system prestudy and poststudy. The DD group took part in 15 sessions of HPOT, and the control (CON) group did not participate in any equine activities. The statistical analysis examined preintervention and postintervention data in the DD group and compared testing data at the same intervals in controls. Functional motor skills significantly improved after HPOT intervention. Mean percent motor delay score decreased by 24.1 points from pretest to post-test in the DD group, indicating significantly (P < .001) less delay after HPOT. In contrast, mean Battelle Developmental Inventory 2nd Edition motor scores of the CON group were unchanged pre-study to post-study. The two groups’ scores were significantly (P < .001) different indicating more improvement in the DD HPOT group when compared with the control group. Gait performance measures did not change significantly (P > .05) from pre-test to post-est in the DD group after HPOT; however, improvement trends were seen in step width and step length after HPOT. The results suggest that HPOT intervention in young children with DD can improve gross motor skills. These data provide important quantitative information concerning the efficacy of early HPOT intervention for children with DD during this critical stage of child development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103359
JournalJournal of Equine Veterinary Science
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Developmental delay
  • Early intervention
  • Hippotherapy


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