Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Kevin Lasley


Horses are now being used in various programs under various conditions. The use of horses for therapy and recreation for the physically and mentally disabled first began in Germany and Switzerland. The United States now has many schools and different riding programs as well.

Riding seems to be especially beneficial to those with neurological impairments. Treatment of paraplegia is very limited but recreational activities are advancing. The use of the horse is beneficial for paraplegics emotionally as well as physically. Measurements and evaluations of these benefits are lacking. This project analyzes and measures the physical benefits of horseback riding on a classification T8 paraplegic.

The subject underwent a pre-test and post-test electromyographic analysis (EMG) of the tibialis anterior, vastus lateralis, and rectus abdominis before and after eight weeks of horseback riding. The riding was conducted three times a week, for thirty minute sessions. The purpose of the study was to see if there was an increase in muscle amplitude and duration in the muscles tested. A secondary purpose was to see if there was an increase in cardiovascular activity caused by horseback riding. The subject’s heart rate was monitored by a Vantage Performance Monitor and was recorded during each session.

The pre-test and post-test EMG was conducted in the human physiology lab at Eastern Illinois University. One page of EMG recordings was run on each muscle. Only the muscles of the right side of the body were tested. The subject mounted a special apparatus which was built by the experimenter for the purpose of these tests. The apparatus was manually manipulated in the rhythmic stepping action of a horse. Each sheet of results on each muscle was measured and recorded in two separate ways. First the duration of the muscle was measured and then the amplitude. Each spike was measured and recorded by the experimenter. These scores were then compared using an unpaired, two-tailed, T-test.

By design, the heart rate was 73 beats per minute at the beginning of each session. The heart rates were recorded at fifteen minutes and again at thirty minutes by using a Vantage Performance Monitor. The changes in heart rate at fifteen and thirty minutes were compared using a paired T-test.

The muscle activity in the tibialis anterior, vastus lateralis, and rectus abdominis increased after the subject completed the horseback riding activity. There were statistically significant increases in both amplitude and duration of the EMG on each muscle. The subject’s heart rate increased according to recorded scores taken during the riding sessions compared to that of the subject's resting rate and there was no significant difference between fifteen and thirty minutes.