Therapeutic Riding Research

Diagnosed with autism, he was thought to be nonverbal.

That was until he began riding a horse.

Now 5, Romeo, of Apalachin, participates in the Southern Tier Alternative Therapies’ program called Strides, which combines equine therapy and iPads with speech-generating software to help low and nonverbal children develop communication skills.

“He’s starting to use sentences and ask questions,” said Romeo’s grandmother, Rose McCabe of Apalachin, who brings him to Fargnoli Farms in Apalachin where the 8-week spring program takes place.

“Being able to communicate his needs has really helped with his behavior,” she said. “He rarely has meltdowns anymore.”

Romeo is one of eight children participating in the program, now in its second year.

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On a recent Saturday afternoon at Wagner Ranch in rural Arroyo Grande, Harrison Haupt squealed with delight as his weekly therapeutic riding lesson ended.

Despite not speaking, it was evident by the smile on Harrison’s face and the happy sounds coming from his mouth as he rode Rasta confidently, helmet atop his small head, the horseback-riding lessons are working for him.

Harrison, 31/2, is finding his voice in the saddle.

“It’s really, really good,” said Alison Haupt about her son participating in Little Riders, Jack’s Helping Hand’s newest therapeutic program for children with developmental and physical disabilities.

Harrison has autism spectrum disorder, a brain development impairment that hampers social interaction, communication — verbal and nonverbal — and behaviors and interest in individuals afflicted with the disorder.

Autism also causes restricted and repetitive behaviors and is the second-leading childhood developmental disorder. It is considered a spectrum disorder because the severity of impairment differs in each individual.

Harrison doesn’t use language and communicates through grunting-like noises, his mother said, adding she hopes early interventions, such as Little Riders, will help her son to begin speaking at some point in his life.

Since beginning the eight-week equine therapy program last month, Harrison has started making a throat-type noise, smiling and giggling every time he’s around the horses or knows he’s going to the ranch, Haupt said.

“He’s very excited and he looks forward to it,” she said, her own face beaming with a huge smile. “This is a whole different element for him. It’s calming for him. He just adapts.”

Haupt admitted she was skeptical when she brought Harrison to the ranch for his initial riding lesson with Lisa Ankenbrandt, who runs the Little Riders program. But, it didn’t take her long to see the benefits.

“He immediately went up and started petting the horses,” Haupt said, adding Harrison is fearful of other farm animals. “He needs this. It’s pushing your child, but it’s pushing them in a healthy way.”

Experts agree horses having a calming effect on individuals with autism, allowing them to focus, and anecdotal research shows the movement of the animal gives the person riding it rhythm, which is integral to developing speech.

Riding a horse also gives the rider trunk stability, which, in turn, helps regulate breathing, also important for speech.

San Luis Obispo mom Erin Helfman has also seen positive changes in her 5-year-old daughter, Sydney, since the young girl started lessons with Little Riders a few weeks ago. Sydney, too, has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

“This is great for her,” Helfman said about Sydney, who wasn’t verbal until 31/2 years old. “She loves having a voice.”

Ankenbrandt has her students walk around small arenas on the horses — they also play games — giving the animal commands such as “Whoa” and “Go, horse” during the 30-minute, weekly sessions.....

More and source: http://www.timespressrecorder.com/articles/2014/05/15/news/featurednews/news50.txt

 

Patricia Pendry doesn't know if it's the feel of a horse's soft hair beneath a child's hand, the collaboration required for a teen to gain horsemanship skills or something else altogether. She does, however, know one thing: Stress levels are lower in adolescents who work with horses than in those who don't.

In a randomly controlled study involving 130 students age 10 to 15, Pendry, a Washington State University developmental psychologist, found that 5thgraders through 8thgraders who participated in a series of weekly 90-minute equine learning sessions had lower cortisol levels than children who were wait-listed for the program, the control group. Cortisol is the hormone released in response to stress.

Her research was published this month in the Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Psychological Association. It was funded by a $100,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health, which asked researchers to look into the affects of human-animal interaction on child development.

For years, Pendry says, scientists have known about conditions that seem to influence stress, but far less is understood about what interventions work best to keep it in under control or improve responses to it.

Controlling stress during the teen years is important. Not only is it a critical time for brain development but high stress during adolescence also has been linked to mental-health and behavioral problems....

More & source: http://www.oregonlive.com/health/index.ssf/2014/04/working_with_horses_reduces_st.html

 

Horse and Humans Research Foundation

Chagrin Falls, Ohio, May 6, 2014 – Research from Washington University in St Louis indicates that treating children who have autism in occupational therapy sessions utilizing the movements of the horse, commonly called hippotherapy, may significantly improve balance, social responsiveness and other “life outcomes.”

The Horses and Humans Research Foundation provided funding to Washington University in St. Louis with the purpose of determining if using horse movement (hippotherapy) could improve balance and behavior in children with Autism. The team measured outcomes from Occupational and Physical Therapy using horse movement (hippotherapy) for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The project was innovative because it used objective quantitative data collection in addition to qualitative standardized clinical scales.

The project followed thirteen children with Autism Spectrum Disorder as they participated in 12 weeks of 45-minute weekly hippotherapy sessions. These weekly treatments were conducted by an occupational therapist (OT) or OT Assistant who used horses, their movement and related activities as a primary part of the OT treatment.

“Hippotherapy is commonly used for children with ASD,” said Principal Investigator Tim L. Shurtleff, OTD, OTR/L. “However, up to this point no systematic evidence had been published on the impact of hippotherapy on children with ASD. No studies of hippotherapy have been reported about children with ASD but many children with ASD participate in hippotherapy. Evidence was needed to support treatment planning, and to support reimbursement for these interventions.”

Quantitatively, several variables studied indicated that participants had significant improvements in balance. Improving balance may enable these children to participate in many activities which may have previously been difficult for them. Qualitatively, interviews with parents to measure social responsiveness, sensory response, adaptive behaviors and outcomes at home, at school and on the playground were used to determine if treatments made a difference in the lives of the participants with ASD. Several “life outcomes” were found to be significant. Parents reported the child learned to listen better, became less stubborn or sullen, showed higher levels of confidence during participation in leisure activities, played and interacted more appropriately with peers and they gained better body awareness.

More & source: http://www.equinechronicle.com/research-shows-combining-horses-and-children-with-autism-may-improve-motor-performance-and-behavior/

 

The animals' motion may correct rhythm coordination problems

Animals have helped many kids with autism improve their speech and social skills, but these cases have been largely isolated. Now the first scientific study of horse therapy finds its many benefits may have to do with rhythm.

A study of 42 children with autism, six to 16 years old, found that riding and grooming horses significantly bettered behavioral symptoms. Compared with kids who had participated in nonanimal therapy, those exposed to horses showed more improvement in social skills and motor skills, rated via standard behavioral assessment surveys, according to the study published in the February issue ofResearch in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Psychologist Robin Gabriels of the University of Colorado Denver, who led the study, speculates that the calming, rhythmic motion of the horses played a role.

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A Horse of a Different Color: A Review of the Effectiveness of Hippotherapy

Hippotherapy, sometimes also called "equine-assisted" therapy or "therapeutic riding," involves the use of horses to provide various therapies to persons who display a number of challenging conditions (American Hippotherapy Association, 2010). "Hippo" means "horse" in Greek. According to the American Hippotherapy Association (AHA) website, the horse is used because the "multidimensional movement" of this animal provides "sensory input through movement which is variable, rhythmic, and repetitive" (2010).

Marina Sarris

Interactive Autism Network at Kennedy Krieger Institute

Date Published:  May 25, 2016v>

American frontier tales promote the magical connection between a man and his trusty steed. A rider communicates with his horse through words and movements, forming a bond in which each "reads" the other. Horse enthusiasts have said these bonds help people with autism, a disorder affecting social and communication skills, but they didn't have much rigorous research to back them up – until now.

A new study, coming from the old frontier state of Colorado, shows that children with autism who took therapeutic horseback riding lessons became less irritable, less hyperactive, spoke more words, and showed other improvements, compared to children who didn't ride.1

Other studies have found various benefits to therapeutic riding,2 or other interventions involving animals, but many of those studies were small or had problems with the way they were conducted.3, 4, 5 "High quality research" is hard to find for animal interventions in autism, one review said.3

...

source and more: https://iancommunity.org/aic/study-finds-benefits-therapeutic-riding-autism

Marina Sarris
Interactive Autism Network at Kennedy Krieger Institute

American frontier tales promote the magical connection between a man and his trusty steed. A rider communicates with his horse through words and movements, forming a bond in which each "reads" the other. Horse enthusiasts have said these bonds help people with autism, a disorder affecting social and communication skills, but they didn't have much rigorous research to back them up – until now.

A new study, coming from the old frontier state of Colorado, shows that children with autism who took therapeutic horseback riding lessons became less irritable, less hyperactive, spoke more words, and showed other improvements, compared to children who didn't ride.1

Other studies have found various benefits to therapeutic riding,2 or other interventions involving animals, but many of those studies were small or had problems with the way they were conducted.3, 4, 5 "High quality research" is hard to find for animal interventions in autism, one review said.3

What makes the Colorado study noteworthy is its size and scientific design. Researchers conducted a large randomized controlled trial, a type of study that removes factors that could unfairly sway the results. They randomly assigned 116 children with autism, ages 6 to 16, into two equal groups. Half received lessons with a certified therapeutic riding instructor for one hour per week for 10 weeks. The other half spent the same time learning about horses, using a stuffed model of a pony, in a farmhouse at the riding center. Their lessons largely mirrored that of the riders, and they got the same amount of adult attention. But they had no contact with real horses or riding. In that way, they served as a control group against which the riders were compared.1

...

More and source: https://iancommunity.org/aic/study-finds-benefits-therapeutic-riding-autism

The Long Ride Home

The long awaited sequel of the Horse Boy.

 

longridehome 4

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