Horseback riding combined with cognitive exercises can help children with ADHD and autism spectrum

Discussion in 'Parenting News' started by runawaybunny, Feb 6, 2020.

  1. runawaybunny

    runawaybunny Administrator Staff Member


    First-of-its kind research shows how brain-building exercises shared with horseback riding courses improves the motor skills of young people with neurodevelopmental disorders

    Therapeutic horseback riding combined with brain-building exercises can improve the dexterity, coordination and strength of children with neurodevelopmental disorders, shows a study in Frontiers in Veterinary Science.

    Neurodevelopmental disorders - such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)) - affect as many as one in six American children. Physical activity is known to benefit these patients in a variety of ways, but this is the first study showing the short and long-term effects of a program combining horseback riding and cognitive training.

    "We wanted to investigate how a combination of equine-assisted activities and various brain-building tasks, administered by a speech therapist, would affect motor skills in children with disorders including autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity," says Dr. Brandon Rigby, of the Texas Woman's University in the United States.

    "Our findings should be helpful to therapists and other healthcare professionals who are tasked with implementing strategies and interventions to improve motor skill proficiency in children and youth with ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), which were the most common diagnoses in our study."

    For their study, Rigby and his collaborators recruited 25 children with neurodevelopmental disorders between the ages of 5 and 16. Each child completed one of several different programs ranging in length from eight weeks to one year. The programs included weekly introductory horseback riding, as well as sessions with a speech therapist two to three times per week.

    During the horseback riding, the children learned about horse anatomy, riding equipment, and the basics of riding. The brain-building activities focused on exercises that train the brain to process sensory information such as sound, sight, balance and spatial orientation. These sessions included music therapy, eye tracking exercises and hand-eye coordination tasks. The children and their parents were also given daily exercises that they could perform at home.

    After eight weeks of the program, the children showed improved motor skills, although there was sometimes a delay before the changes became apparent. For the participants that continued the program for one year, these benefits continued for the duration of the study. These participants also showed improvements in their behavior and academic performance, including social and communication skills. Additionally, anecdotal responses from parents and caregivers suggested that the children were more positive, focused and calm both in and outside of the program.

    Given the small size of the study, larger-scale research is still needed to better understand the potential benefits to the range of neurodevelopmental disorders. Some limitations include the varying diagnoses of the participants (as opposed to looking at benefits per ADHD or autism specifically), and the allowance to continue prescribed medications or therapies outside the scope of this program. Despite this, the program's results are promising, and the researchers hope that this will inspire further interest in cross-disciplinary programs.

    "These findings may allow for a greater demand for these programs, ultimately making them more accessible and affordable," says Rigby.

    Source: Frontiers
    Journal: Frontiers in Veterinary Science
    Related Journal Article:
  2. louise2350

    louise2350 Active Member

    My youngest daughter took horseback riding for many years. I'd love to go with her and help her to tack the horse before her lesson. I was afraid the horse might kick her in the face while she was cleaning the hooves, so at first, did it myself for her. As time went on, she could successfully clean the hooves herself and I never saw her so happy as when she was with the horses. At the time, a lot of stress was in our household because of my middle disconnected daughter and my youngest strongly felt it. These horseback riding lessons did wonders for her and I almost started taking lessons myself. I've always loved horses. The horses are so beautiful and when I look back on how fast she'd go on the horse, I don't know how I managed to let her take lessons at all, but she knew what she was doing and she was very young at the time. Every penny I put into these lessons was worth it. I'd recommend kids and even adults to take horseback riding lessons to pick up their spirits and just to have a great time.
  3. runawaybunny

    runawaybunny Administrator Staff Member

    My daughter took horseback riding lessons for several years too. She loved it.