Autism Research: The Effectiveness of Simulated Developmental Horse-Riding Program in Children with Autism

Research for Therapeutic Horseback Riding Autism Treatment:

Study Looks at Impact of Simulated Developmental Horseback-Riding Program on Sensory Integrative Functions and Motor Proficiency in Autistic Children
Research Determines Efficacy of Simulated Developmental Horseback-Riding Program on Motor Proficiency and Sensory Integrative Functions in Children with Autism

Previous research has suggested that therapeutic horseback riding is effective for the treatment of several different health conditions.  A recent technological development has led to a new exercise equipment product that simulates horseback riding.  A study was conducted to determine if a Simulated Developmental Horseback-Riding Program would result in beneficial outcomes in children with autism spectrum disorders.  The findings were published in an article titled The Effectiveness of Simulated Developmental Horse-Riding Program in Children with Autism.

The study included 60 children with autism ranging from 6 to 8 years of age.  The children were split into 2 groups each consisting of 30 individuals.  The study lasted 40 weeks, which included two 20-week phases.  In the first 20-week phase, 30 children participated in both their normal occupational therapy and the Simulated Developmental Horseback-Riding Program.  The other 30 children only participated in their normal occupational therapy program.  In the second phase, the first group participated in only occupational therapy while the second group participated in both the Simulated Developmental Horseback-Riding Program along with occupational therapy.  The study was designed to measure the impact of the Simulated Developmental Horseback-Riding Program on motor proficiency and sensory integrative functions.

Benefits of Simulated Developmental Horseback-Riding Program:

The researchers reported that the simulated therapeutic horseback-riding program resulted in significant improvements in both motor proficiency and sensory integrative functions.  Interestingly, they also reported that the improvements lasted for a minimum of 6 months.

The article was published in Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly in April of 2011.

Additional Resources:

Autism Research: Prospective Trial of Equine-Assisted Activities in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Research for Therapeutic Horseback Riding for Autism:

Benefits of Hippotherapy (Equine Therapy) in Children with Autism Researched

Therapeutic horseback riding, or hippotherapy, has been proposed as a treatment for autism.  Although much anecdotal evidence exists supporting the effectiveness of hippotherapy for autism, few studies have been published in regard to therapeutic horseback riding as an autism treatment.  A recent study attempted to determine the effect of equine therapy (hippotherapy) on autism symptoms.  The findings were published in an article titled Prospective Trial of Equine-Assisted Activities in Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The study utilized a prospective design and included 44 children with autism spectrum disorders.  The participants were split into 2 groups.  The first group consisted of 20 individuals who participated in 6 months of equine therapy.  The second group consisted of 24 individuals who participated in therapeutic horseback riding after completing a waiting list period.  Each child served as their own control in the study.

The research focused on the impact of therapeutic horseback riding on overall Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) scores.  It also focused on changes in interactions between parent and child as measured by the Timberlawn Parent-Child Interaction Scale.  The researchers also attempted to determine the effect of the hippotherapy on parental treatment satisfaction, quality of life, and sensory processing.

Benefit of Therapeutic Horseback Riding (Hippotherapy):

The study found that therapeutic horseback riding resulted in improvement in CARS scores at 3 months and at 6 months of therapy.  The research also demonstrated significant improvements in the Timberlawn Parent-Child Interaction Scale in the areas of mood and tone at 3 months and 6 months of hippotherapyOnly moderate improvement was observed in the area of negative regard for the Timberlawn Parent-Child Interaction Scale after 6 months of therapy.

The researchers found that quality of life as reported by parents improved with equine therapy.  Interestingly, quality of life was even found to improve during the waiting list period or pretreatment phase of the study.  The authors also reported that Treatment Satisfaction Survey responses were all rated between good and very good.

The authors state that this study demonstrates that equine therapy may be of benefit to children with autism.

The article was published in May 2011 in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine.

Additional Resources:

List of Research for Therapeutic Horseback Riding for Autism

2013 Research

The Association Between Therapeutic Horseback Riding and the Social Communication and Sensory Reactions of Children with Autism

  • An interrupted treatment study
  • Included 21 children with autism
  • Focused on the impact of therapeutic horseback riding on social communication, sensory processing skills, and autism symptoms

2011 Research

Prospective Trial of Equine-Assisted Activities in Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • A prospective study
  • Included 44 children with autism spectrum disorders
  • Focused on the effect of therapeutic horseback riding treatment based on changes in Childhood Autism Rating Scale scores and changes in the Timberlawn Parent-Child Interaction Scale scores
  • Also focused on the effect of equine therapy on sensory processing, quality of life, and parental treatment satisfaction

2010 Research

The Effectiveness of Simulated Developmental Horse-Riding Program in Children with Autism

  • Included 60 children with autism
  • Study consisted of two 20-week phases
  • Focused on efficacy of a simulated developmental horse-riding program on motor proficiency and sensory integrative functions

2009 Research

The Effect of Therapeutic Horseback Riding on Social Functioning in Children with Autism

  • Included 34 children with autism spectrum disorder
  • Consisted of 12 weeks of horseback riding intervention
  • Focused on the effect of therapeutic horseback riding on social functioning
  • Also focused on the effect of therapeutic horseback riding on sensory seeking, sensory sensitivity, social motivation, inattention, distractibility, and sedentary behaviors

 

Additional Resources:

List of Research for Therapeutic Horseback Riding as an Autism Treatment