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Hold Your Horses- A Case For Equine Therapy

By Sydney Horwitz – May 21, 2017

Winston Churchill stated, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”  This statement is inarguably true. Horses have connected with humans for over five thousand years. Because they are prey animals, horses have an innate ability to assess people and their surroundings. Their large limbic system is responsible for their sharp intuition as well as their heightened sensitivity to human emotion, body language, and energy. They relate to their surroundings similar to the way the right hemisphere of a human brain functions; which is nonverbal, creative, emotional, and intuitive. This allows horses to bond with people on a deep level, thus enabling them to be utilized as a therapy form for people with developmental disabilities such as autism.


In a new systematic review and meta-analysis that was published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation titled Therapeutic Effects of Horseback Riding Interventions explains the science and studies that prove this.  This article shows that “Equine-assisted activities and therapies potentially provide advantage for cognitive, emotional and social well-being.” Horses are a versatile tool in the therapy world. They help people with physical needs and mental needs alike. The review concludes that equine-assisted therapy “is a viable intervention option for participants with impairments in balance, gross and fine motor function, gait, spasticity, and coordination…. and provides cognitive, emotional, and social well-being, and individuals who attend such a therapy program have the opportunity to simultaneously experience, benefit, and enjoy the activity outdoors.” Although riding horses can be exhilarating, there’s something even more profound that draws us together, a special connection formed between horse and rider. Horseback riding is beneficial whether it is incorporated into a therapy treatment, used as a recreation opportunity, or is pursued as an extracurricular activity. Although sessions at the Ascendigo Ranch Program do not seem like therapy, under all the laughter and fun, a profound healing experience is taking place due to the magnificence of the horse.


Stergiou, A., Tzoufi, M., Ntzani, E., Varvarousis, D., Beris, A., & Ploumis, A. (2017). Therapeutic Effects of Horseback Riding Interventions, A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (00), 1-9.

DOI: 10.1097/PHM.0000000000000726

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