Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 43, Issue 9, pp 2190–2198 | Cite as

The Association Between Therapeutic Horseback Riding and the Social Communication and Sensory Reactions of Children with Autism

  • Sandra C. WardEmail author
  • Kelly Whalon
  • Katrina Rusnak
  • Kimberly Wendell
  • Nancy Paschall
Original Paper


This study investigated the association between therapeutic riding (TR) and the social communication and sensory processing skills of 21 elementary students with autism attending TR as part of a school group. An interrupted treatment design was employed to determine whether children were able to maintain treatment effects following the removal of TR. Teacher ratings indicated that participating children with autism significantly increased their social interaction, improved their sensory processing, and decreased the severity of symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorders following TR. Gains were not maintained consistently after two 6-week breaks from TR, but were recovered once TR was reinstated. Potential explanations regarding the benefits of TR are discussed, and suggestions for future research provided.


Autism Autism spectrum disorder Therapeutic horseback riding Animal assisted therapy 



The authors wish to acknowledge the contributions of Wade Johnson, M.D. to the design and critique of this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sandra C. Ward
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kelly Whalon
    • 1
    • 2
  • Katrina Rusnak
    • 3
    • 4
  • Kimberly Wendell
    • 4
  • Nancy Paschall
    • 4
  1. 1.School of EducationThe College of William and MaryWilliamsburgUSA
  2. 2.School of EducationUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  3. 3.College of Health and Rehabilitation SciencesBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  4. 4.Dream Catchers at the Cori Sikich Therapeutic Riding CenterToanoUSA

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