A therapy of a different kind was observed to test its effectiveness in the treatment of autism-related cases. Yes, we are speaking about horse-assisted equine therapy.
In this therapy mode, Autistic individuals are encouraged to engage with specially trained horses. A noticeable improvement in motor and social skills was seen in patients. Twenty-eight autistic children participated in the study, of which 13 were control subjects.
Every individual had 25 detailed sessions, each session lasting 60 to 70 minutes. The study took place over a broad time frame of 6 months, and 3 to 4 individuals took part in each session.
The Three Phases of Equine Therapy Studies
For a period of 20 minutes, children were required to participate in the grooming session and then taught to hand walk the horse. The goal behind the grooming phase was to teach the children the rules of safety and also to enhance their knowledge of the animals.
The children also had the benefit of learning essential husbandry skills for horses. For instance, they learned how to groom the horse and to take care of it.
The tasks that children had to perform included using the right set of bathing and grooming tools for the horses.
Another 20 to 30 minutes were spent horseback riding.
Horse riding was introduced from the fifth session on, after carefully observing the child and picking up cues from their behavior. Vaulting girth and saddles were introduced after the fifth session.
In this phase, children were put on the ground for 10 minutes. During this session, children were encouraged to interact with their therapist and to follow his instructions.
They were made to interact with horses both verbally and non-verbally. Aids such as colour drawings and pictures were provided to interact with the animals smoothly.
Observed Improvements in the Equine Therapy Study
After 6 months, 15 subjects, who had participated in all stages of horse therapy, showed a good amount of progress. They were also found to have progressed in the following areas:
Social Functioning: This can be defined as the ability to construct and represent the relations between self and others successfully. This skill is important and plays a crucial role in modeling the social behavior of the child.
Motor Skills and Abilities: The importance of these abilities has proven to be of utmost importance for any individual’s overall development.
The reason being that motor skills have a greater role to play in day-to-day activities, such as effective use of the language and communication. At times, it is also possible that abnormal development of motor abilities can lead to undesirable consequences.
Executive Functioning: This is defined as a set of cognitive processes, such as working memory and impulse control, along with flexible thinking and problem solving. Improvement in this area was observed during the study, such as reducing planning time in problem-solving tasks.
These findings regarding equine therapy shed light on the promising developments to come as far as natural treatment of autism is concerned.
They could also be a major reason why many people advocate for animal therapy, believing that it should be implemented in the treatment for a range of disabilities, from autism to other related disabilities.