Horseback riding helps children with cerebral palsy

Miami It is estimated that 500,000 children in the United States suffer from cerebral palsy, an incurable condition that affects the ability to walk and causes the inability to maintain posture and balance.

Research has found that horseback riding is a viable treatment to help these children improve functional mobility.

When Michael Hero was born 14 weeks premature with a host of serious medical problems, doctors didn’t think he would survive.

“It was five percent to survive,” said his father, Juan Hiro.

After seven months in the hospital, Michael is back home and is now 10 years old.

“People tell you at first it’s going to be a life full of headaches, a life full of misery,” Hiro said.

Michael’s parents never gave up hope that they could help him beat the odds against everything he was up against, including a diagnosis of cerebral palsy caused by a brain injury.

“What happens next is that the muscles in the entire motor system actually start to develop movement disorders, and that’s the progressive part of cerebral palsy we see over the course of a lifetime,” said Dr. Verena Schreiber, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. Surgeon at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Coral Gables, Florida.


Just before the pandemic, Michael began participating in weekly sessions at the Whispering Manes Therapeutic Riding Center in West Miami-Dade.

“This is a program where people don’t come just once a week and you see the difference constantly,” said Robin Bramson, program director and riding instructor for Whispering Manes.

A team of researchers from Korea and the United States recently found that horseback riding therapy can improve movement in children with cerebral palsy.

“It’s certainly, in terms of the treatments we give to children with movement disorders, that it’s definitely a good supplement,” Schreiber said.

“It’s so exhausting to be moving a horse front to back side to side up and down all of these things,” Bramson added.

Michael’s parents say there’s no doubt that the treatment made a difference in his moods and movements.

“It’s a blessing, it really is a blessing. Hiro said that helping him achieve his goals has enriched our lives.


Riding therapy is usually not covered by insurance, but some healthcare spending accounts may reimburse the cost.

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