Mental Health & ADHD Comorbidities

Study: Equine Therapy Paired with Brain-Building Exercises Improves Motor Skills in Children with ADHD and Autism

Equine therapy immediately followed by brain-building exercises results in improved dexterity, coordination, and strength in children with neurodevelopmental disorders, specifically ADHD and autism spectrum disorder.

February 7, 2020

Equine therapy followed by brain-building exercises can improve the motor skills of children with neurodevelopmental disorders including ADHD and autism spectrum disorder, according to new research from Frontiers in Veterinary Science. 1

The small, 32-week study included 25 children, aged 5-16, with neurodevelopmental disorders who participated in four 8-week blocks of equine assisted activities paired with brain-building exercises. In each block, the children learned the basics of horseback riding and how to use equipment, and then engaged immediately afterward in brain-building exercises, defined in the study as “tasks that are used to improve the brain’s ability to process information that comes into the body along the primary sensory pathways, including auditory, visual, and vestibular pathways.” These exercises, designed to train the brain how to process sound, sight, balance, and special orientation, included music therapy sessions, eye-tracking exercises, and hand-eye coordination tasks. The researchers assessed subjects’ motor skills before and after each block using a short version of the Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency-Version 2 (BOT-2).

After 8 weeks of equine therapy paired with brain-building exercises, participants showed improved motor skills that continued through the year-long study. Researchers also observed improved behavior and academic performance. Likewise, parents reported increased positivity and calm among their children. These findings support the view that Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) can benefits individuals with ADHD. However, larger-scale research is necessary to validate the results of this small study.

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1Rigby, B. Rhett, et al. “Changes in Motor Skill Proficiency After Equine-Assisted Activities and Brain-Building Tasks in Youth with Neurodevelopmental Disorders.” Frontiers in Veterinary Science. (Jan. 2020)