Development and validation of a robust, adjustable hippotherapy simulator

Melissa Jo Montgomery, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology


This thesis describes all aspects of development, testing, refinement, and validation of a robust, adjustable hippotherapy simulator. This simulator primarily focuses on physical therapy; however, emotional benefits can be realized. It uniquely innovates on an effective design that has only partially been addressed in other simulators. Using a variable drive for adjustable speed, it incorporates reinforcements to increase load capacity along with removable camshafts that adjust the throw heights in the device’s simulated hips and shoulders. For testing and validation, Qualisys software and motion capture supported analysis of the device’s motion paths and speeds. Riders weighing approximately 135-300 pounds successfully ride the device at all throw and loading options, thus permitting a wide range of therapy recipients. After analysis and targeting system improvement, transitioning riders from the smaller set of camshafts to the larger results in a 20.2% increase in hip motion magnitude, thus facilitating an effective therapeutic platform.