We are very exicted to announce The Institute for Anthrozoology and the Open University in The Netherlands will do a new study in our Horse Boy Method!
The value of interacting with horses for your well-being and/or the well-being of your child might be well known to you from your personal experience. Equine-assisted interventions aim to utilize these beneficial effects of human-horse interaction to work on personal development, learning and mental health. Although there is anecdotal evidence abound to suggest the efficacy of these type of interventions, scientists are only starting to research these claims. The preliminary results are hopeful and further research is necessary.
The Horse Boy Method, an equine-assisted method developed for children with autism, utilizes the human-horse bond to assist the child in the development of academic skills and life skills. Observation of participants in the Horse Boy program suggests that children are more relaxed and better able to learn while interacting with the horse. It is assumed that the natural environment of the horse leads to activity reduction in the overly active central nervous system of the child with autism. Furthermore, it is assumed that the movement of the horse leads to increases in oxytocin level, resulting in lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. These stress-reducing mechanisms are related to the observed improvements, assuming that stress-reduction enables the child to allocate more cognitive resources towards developing skills. Further exploration of these claims is necessary. The Horse Boy Foundation, the Open University (NL) and the Institute for Anthrozoology have joined forces to research these hypotheses.
To test these hypotheses, we will start by running a pilot study with 20 typically developing boys aged seven to nine years old. These children will be randomly assigned to one of four conditions: 1) horseback movement; 2) movement on a horse simulator; 3) on the ground with the horse; and 4) in nature with play activity. The children will participate in one of four conditions for ten weeks, fifteen minutes per week. Physiological changes (heart rate and salivary cortisol) will be monitored before, during and after participation in one of the four conditions. Emotional and behavioural development and aspects of executive functioning will be assessed before and after participation in one of the four conditions. A semi-structured interview is utilized after the completion of the study to asses any changes parents observe in the executive functioning, social cognition and emotional development of their child. The primary goal of this study is to identify the working mechanisms behind equine-assisted interventions, specifically the Horse Boy Method. This design allows us to explore the unique effects of different aspects of the Horse Boy Method. If the study design proves to be useful for exploring the effects of the Horse Boy Method, a large scale study with children with an autism spectrum diagnosis will follow.
To realize this study, we need your help. An elaborate and rigorous design like the one we are planning to do, requires financial means. The materials and manpower necessary to achieve our goals will require €50.000 in funds. With your donation, you can help us unravel the mechanisms behind the observed effects of equine-assisted interventions, including but not limited to the Horse Boy Method. Better understanding of the working mechanisms behind equine-assisted interventions allows practitioners to utilize their methods to the fullest extent. Additionally, showing the efficacy of a method results in more implementation of the method and therefore better accessibility for those who can benefit from it.
Your donation can be addressed to Horse Boy Foundation labelled as “horse boy study”.
When you wish to use Bank transfer: please donate your money into the account of our Dutch coordinator:
We are thankful for your willingness to contribute to our cause.
Prof. dr. M.J. Enders-Slegers, Professor of anthrozoology, Mental Health psychologist, Open University, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Institute for Anthrozoology
Drs. M.J.A. Ernst, PhD candidate, psychologist, Open University, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Institute for Anthrozoology
Carola Beekman, Horse Boy Method practitioner and trainer, child and youth coach, Horse Boy Foundation
Rupert Isaacson and Iliane Lorenz, founders of Horse Boy Foundation
If you choose to donate to this project, funds will go to our general reseach bucket, if for wha t ever reason this project will not be conducted, we will use your funds for another project looking into the effectiveness of Horse Boy Method or Movement Method.