Rider assessment in therapeutic horse riding

Thumbnail Image
Other Title
Prattley, Deborah Jayne
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Master of Osteopathy
Unitec Institute of Technology
Bacon, Catherine
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
therapeutic horse riding
goal attainment scaling
functional assessment
Prattley, D.J. Rider assessment in therapeutic horse riding. An unpublished thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Osteopathy, Unitec Institute of Technology.
Background: Outcome assessment is important in rehabilitation to demonstrate the achievement of therapeutic goals, provide evidence-based therapy and assist in acquiring funding for therapy provided by charitable organisations. The New Zealand Riding for the Disabled Association (NZRDA) is a charitable organisation providing therapeutic horse riding programmes, however no standardised method of setting goals for riders or for evaluating goal achievement currently exists. Aims: To gather information about users of Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) services in New Zealand, and use this to identify suitable methods of assessing goal achievement for outcomes relating to physical functioning of riders. Methods: A survey of RDA groups collected information describing rider demographics, disabilities and goals set during riding programmes. Existing assessment tests relating to goals for physical function were evaluated for psychometric properties and clinical utility in the RDA context. A pilot study using goal attainment scaling (GAS) was performed in one RDA group, with feedback provided via a questionnaire completed by participating coaches. Results: Data from 26% of RDA groups described 544 riders, the majority being aged less than 20 years and having one or more disabilities relating either to mental function or structures of the nervous system (n=595, 68% of reported disabilities), or to neuromusculoskeletal issues relating to movement (n=132; 15%). Approximately 35% of goals related to the physical attributes of balance, posture, motor skills, coordination or strength. None of the 407 assessment tests evaluated in relation to these attributes had both adequate psychometric properties and suitability for RDA use. The GAS pilot study received generally positive feedback from the four participating coaches, with ease of rider evaluation and increased focus being the main advantages. However, writing GAS goals was considered challenging and time-consuming. Conclusions: RDA groups provide therapeutic riding services to young people with a complex range of physical, psychosocial and cognitive disabilities. GAS has shown promise as a tool to evaluate riders’ achievements in a therapeutic environment staffed largely by volunteers who are not trained therapists. Further studies with modifications of the GAS method are recommended.
Link to ePress publication
Copyright holder
Copyright notice
All rights reserved
Copyright license
Available online at