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D e b o r a h Y . S t r a u s s , D V M
People who regularly interact with horses have been
shown to reap benefits, such as decreased blood
pressure, lower stress levels, and reduced feelings of
anger and anxiety. Studies also show that you gain
feelings of self-esteem, trust, empathy and patience.
The benefits of equine therapy are especially helpful for
children and adults with certain medical conditions. As a
complementary therapy, it has been used in the
treatment plan of physical, psychological, social and
educational disorders. Autism is one example.
H O W D O E S I T W O R K ?
Skilled therapists who specialize in
equine therapy — sometimes in
conjunction with specialized physical
therapists — help children and adults
with autism to have fun while developing
All therapy is altered to fit the specific
needs of each child or adult, but therapy
usually includes grooming, riding and
P H Y S I C A L B E N E F I T S
Riding a horse helps to develop coordination, strength
and muscle tone. As the horse changes speed, direction
and incline, the rider is required to constantly adjust
their body to compensate. Controlling the reins helps
with coordination, as well.
S E N S O R Y B E N E F I T S
The sounds and smells of the horse, the feeling
of its fur, and feeling the changes in direction
and speed when riding can all be positively
stimulating to those with autism.
E M O T I O N A L
B O N D I N G
In patients with autism, it’s
common for emotional bonding
to be difficult. Parents and
other family members often say
their loved one has difficulty
making eye contact and
expressing feelings. Learning to
care for the horses creates an
emotional bridge between
emotion and providing care for
another living being.
L A N G U A G E D E V E L O P M E N T
Communicating with horses is sometimes “easier” for
them than communicating with humans because they
can communicate physically by brushing, petting,
hugging and riding, as opposed to verbally. Following
directions from the therapist and giving direction to the
horse provides more opportunity for communication.
C O G N I T I V E D E V E L O P M E N T
The therapy will also naturally improve cognitive
concepts, especially through games as the therapy
progresses. In many cases, parents and other family
members notice improved social and communication
skills, even after therapy has ended.
Equine therapy is unfortunately one of the most
expensive therapies available for those with autism.
Some programs cost around $5,000 annually.
However, there are charitable programs through
organizations that provide financial assistance to
those in need.
W e a l l w a n t o u r l o v e d o n e s t o r e a c h t h e i r
f u l l p o t e n t i a l , a n d e q u i n e t h e r a p y c o u l d
b e o n e w a y t o h e l p y o u r s b l o s s o m .
T H A N K Y O U !
Deborah Y. Strauss,