Interactive Autism Network at Kennedy Krieger Institute
Date Published: May 25, 2016v>
American frontier tales promote the magical connection between a man and his trusty steed. A rider communicates with his horse through words and movements, forming a bond in which each "reads" the other. Horse enthusiasts have said these bonds help people with autism, a disorder affecting social and communication skills, but they didn't have much rigorous research to back them up – until now.
A new study, coming from the old frontier state of Colorado, shows that children with autism who took therapeutic horseback riding lessons became less irritable, less hyperactive, spoke more words, and showed other improvements, compared to children who didn't ride.1
Other studies have found various benefits to therapeutic riding,2 or other interventions involving animals, but many of those studies were small or had problems with the way they were conducted.3, 4, 5 "High quality research" is hard to find for animal interventions in autism, one review said.3