Last week in Horse Therapy, I posted about the Rose of Sharon Equestrian School’s therapeutic riding program in Maryland. Stories like these abound from all over the world, really. Riders with disabilities experience positive changes from horseback riding.
A recent article, Benefits proved in therapeutic riding, from the Virginia Gazette points to a growing body of evidence that supports what the horse community knows from experience: children with autism benefit from riding horses. The School of Education at the College of William and Mary studied autistic children over a period of 30 weeks. Part of the research included monitoring changes in children who participated in Dream Catchers at the Cori Sikich Therapeutic Riding Center in Toano, Virginia.
The Virginia Gazette reported that the William and Mary study found that autistic children participating in therapeutic riding “were calmer, improved their relationships with others, and they were more engaged in learning. They saw less fear, more confidence, less repetitive behaviors, more appropriate social responses and less discomfort with physical contact.” While the study also seems to indicate that improvements recede after children stopped riding, this is such a great step in understanding the human-horse relationship.
Sometimes I think about how the role of the horse has changed over the centuries. Horses have served humankind in warfare and entertainment, companionship and transportation, farming and nation-building. I imagine that all along, whether we have known it or not, horses have also served us therapeutically.
Even though we all probably have different ideas about the roles of horses today, we probably agree that there are so many unwanted horses – a situation caused by multiple actions and omissions on our part.
I’m not going to suggest that every unwanted horse can be used as a therapy horse. I know it takes a special horse and specialized training for a horse to be able to serve in this way. I think I’m just saying that I feel so grateful for horses who do play this role and I’m glad it’s being recognized.
I really love this video below because it gives a nice introduction to therapeutic riding and shows how corporate partnership [in this case Markel] can help make great things happen.
For myself, I can count on this: being in the presence of a horse always keeps me present in the now. When I’m with my horse, I breathe in and breathe out. I observe how his movements and mine are related. When I’m with Albert, I am calmer and I am so much more engaged.
I’m really excited about this study! I want to learn more and I hope you will, too. Here are some links to get us started:
- Horses and Humans Research Foundation
- Dream Catchers at the Cori Sikich Therapeutic Riding Center
- Dream Catchers first results of research
- The Impact of TR on the Social Communication and Sensory Processing of Children with Autism presentation to Path International