Oxytocin is released in response to sensory stimulation, such as warmth or touch (Uvnäs-Moberg, 1998).
Skin to skin contact with the horse helps calm the sensory systems of children with autism, perhaps due to the gentle rocking motion of the horse (Solodkin et al, 2007).
Equine assisted therapy is an effective therapy for sensory integration difficulties – (Candler, 2003).
Candler, C. (2003) Sensory integration and therapeutic riding at summer camp: occupational performance outcomes. Physical and Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics, 23 (3), 51-64.
Solodkin, A., Hlustik, P., & Buccino, G. (2007). The anatomy and physiology of the motor system in humans. In J. T. Cacioppo, L. G. Tassinary, G. G. Berntson, J. T. Cacioppo, L. G. Tassinary, G. G. Berntson (Eds.) Handbook of psychophysiology (3rd ed.) (pp. 507-539). New York, NY US: Cambridge University Press.
Uvnäs-Moberg, K. (1998). Oxytocin may mediate the benefits of positive social interaction and emotions. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 23(8), 819-835.