People who have had a spinal cord injury may have varied levels of impairments from sensory loss to quadriplegia. A complete spinal cord injury above T-6 is a contraindication for riding, but would not necessarily prevent a client’s participation in other types of equine programs such as driving and unmounted activities. Many people who have had a spinal cord injury may participate in therapeutic riding lessons, carriage driving or may choose an equine-assisted therapy program to address challenges with trunk control or coping with their injury.
Lechner, Kakebeeke, Hegemann, and Baumberger (2007) conducted research to determine the effect of hippotherapy on spasticity and mental well-being of persons with spinal cord injury (SCI).Spasticity was measured by the Ashworth Scale and subjects’ self-rating on a visual analogue scale. Well-being was measured by subjects’ self-report on the well-being scale Befindlichkeits-Skala of von Zerssen. The researchers found that only the effect of hippotherapy reached significance for clinically rated spasticity compared with the control condition (without intervention). Immediate improvements in the subjects’ mental well-being were detected only after hippotherapy.