Stroke & Horse-Riding

Pohl P, Carlsson G, Bunketorp Kall L, Nillson M & Blomstrand C. (2018) A qualitative exploration of post-acute stroke participants’ experiences of a multimodal intervention incorporating horse riding. PLOS One, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0203933

Background: Multimodal rehabilitation interventions delivered in late phase of stroke recovery involve physical (motor and sensory), social, and cognitively challenging activities. Horseback riding can be incorporated within such interventions, leading to meaningful long-term improvements when applied to individuals with moderate levels of disability. There is a lack of research illuminating stroke survivors’ experiences and perceptions of horseback riding in the context of multimodal interventions.

Aim: To explore stroke survivors’ experiences of participation in a multimodal group-based intervention that included horseback riding.

Methods: An explorative interview study was conducted with individual face-to-face interviews performed on a single occasion, utilising a semi-structured interview guide. Eighteen participants were purposively selected from a larger trial (mean age 62, 12 men, 6 women) within four weeks after treatment completion. The interview duration was between 17 and 50 minutes. The data was analysed using a qualitative content analysis method.

Findings: Four broad themes were identified from the analysis. These themes were: transformative experiences; human–horse interaction; togetherness and belonging; and the all-in-one solution. Interacting with the horse and peers had a profound emotional impact on the participants. The participants also reported having learned new skills, increased self-efficacy and self-esteem, and improvements in balance and gait, all of which could be transferred to everyday life. The horse itself played a central role, but other components, such as the other group members, the instructors, and the challenging tasks on the horseback, were also important.

Conclusion: A multimodal rehabilitation intervention that includes horseback riding may provide stroke survivors in a late phase of recovery with rich pleasurable experiences that may have life-changing and profound impacts on their emotional and physical state.