The Effect of Equine-Assisted Therapy on Gait for an Individual with a Spinal Cord Injury


  • Adam C. Knight
  • Katherine J. Coffey


gait analysis, therapeutic horseback riding, hippotherapy, spinal cord injury


The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of participation in equine-assisted therapy for an individual with a spinal cord injury.  This study examined one male participant (age = 33 years) with an incomplete level C3-C4 spinal cord injury and spastic paresis. The participant completed two therapeutic horseback riding programs, each lasting 6 weeks, with an approximately 5-month break between the programs. His walking gait was analyzed before and after each of two riding sessions, which occurred on a weekly basis during the riding programs. Walking gait was analyzed using DartfishTM video software before and after each of two separate riding sessions. The variables measured included stride length and width (meters), ankle, knee, and hip angles (degrees) at heel strike and toe-off.  All joint angle were measured in the sagittal plane. The results revealed improvements in range of motion for both the left and right ankle angle (15° changes or greater).  There was a slight decrease in right hip angle at heel strike (7°) across riding programs, and a decrease in stride length (0.2 m). Based on these results for the current participant, equine-assisted therapy may be used as an effective treatment to maintain mobility and walking gait for some individuals with spinal cord injury.

Author Biographies

Adam C. Knight

Adam C. Knight is an associate professor and co-director of the Neuromechanics Laboratory in the Department of Kinesiology at Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS. Dr. Knight received his undergraduate degree in athletic training from the University of Southern Mississippi, and his master’s and PhD in exercise science with an emphasis in biomechanics from Auburn University. 

Katherine J. Coffey

Katherine J. Coffey is an associate clinical professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Texas Woman’s University, Denton, TX and holds certification as a Therapeutic Horseback Riding Instructor through PATH International. Dr. Coffey received her undergraduate and master’s degree from Indiana University in physical education and her P.E.D in kinesiology from Indiana University with an emphasis in adapted physical education. 





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