Community Mental Health Journal

, Volume 51, Issue 7, pp 809–817 | Cite as

Not Just Horsing Around: The Impact of Equine-Assisted Learning on Levels of Hope and Depression in At-Risk Adolescents

  • Karen E. Frederick
  • Julie Ivey Hatz
  • Beth Lanning
Brief Communication


Equine-assisted learning (EAL) is an experiential modality which utilizes horses to provide a unique learning experience for personal growth. Research by Damon et al. (Appl Dev Sci 7:119–128, 2003) suggests a positive relationship between hope and positive developmental trajectories. Hagen et al. (Am J Orthopsychiatr 75:211–219, 2005) showed hope to be a protective factor associated with adaptive functioning in at-risk youth. Ashby et al. (J Couns Dev 89:131–139, 2011) found a significant inverse relationship between hope and depression: as hope increases, depression decreases. The current study investigates the impact of a non-riding EAL curriculum entitled L.A.S.S.O. (Leading Adolescents to Successful School Outcomes) on levels of hope and depression in at-risk youth. The study uses an experimental design with longitudinal, repeated measures. Participants were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups. Participants in the treatment received 5 weeks of EAL, while participants in the control group received treatment as usual. Repeated measures ANOVA of participants’ levels of hope and depression showed statistically significant improvements in the treatment group as compared with the control group. Even a brief (5-week) intervention of EAL had a positive impact on the lives and attitudes of at-risk adolescents, with increased levels of hope and decreased levels of depression.


Adolescent At-risk Equine-assisted Hope Depression 


Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. No person or organization benefits, financially or otherwise, by the publication of this research.


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.Google Scholar
  2. Arnau, R. C., Rosen, D. H., Finch, J. F., Rhudy, J. L., & Fortunato, V. J. (2007). Longitudinal effects of hope on depression and anxiety: A latent variable analysis. Journal of Personality, 75, 43–64.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Ashby, J. S., Dickinson, W. L., Gnilka, P. B., & Noble, C. L. (2011). Hope as a mediator and moderator of multidimensional perfectionism and depression in middle school students. Journal of Counseling & Development, 89, 131–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bailey, T. C., Eng, W., Frisch, M. B., & Snyder, C. R. (2007). Hope and optimism as related to life satisfaction. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2(3), 168–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bailey, T. C., & Snyder, C. R. (2007). Satisfaction with life and hope: A look at age and marital status. Psychological Record, 57(2), 233–240.Google Scholar
  6. Bass, M. M., Duchowny, C. A., & Llabre, M. M. (2009). The effect of therapeutic horseback riding on social functioning in children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 39(9), 1261–1267.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Bech, P. (1998). Quality of life in the psychiatric patient. London, England: Mosby-Wolfe.Google Scholar
  8. Bech, P., Rasmussen, N. A., Raabaek-Olsen, L., Noerholm, V., & Abildgaard, W. (2001). The sensitivity and specificity of the major depression inventory, using the present state examination as the index of diagnostic validity. Journal of Affective Disorders, 66, 159–164.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Bergh, D. D. (1995). Problems with repeated measures analysis: Demonstration with a study of the diversification and performance relationship. Academy of Management Journal, 38(6), 1692–1708.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Berkovits, I., Hancock, G. R., & Nevitt, J. (2000). Bootstrap resampling approaches for repeated measure designs: Relative robustness to sphericity and normality violations. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 60(6), 877–892.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carifio, J., & Rhodes, L. (2002). Construct validities and the empirical relationships between optimism, hope, self-efficacy, and locus of control. Work, 19, 125–136.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Carpenter, S. (1997). Therapeutic roles of animals. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 211, 154–155.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Chandler, C. K. (2005). Animal assisted therapy in counseling. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Chang, E. C. (2003). A critical appraisal and extension of hope theory in middle-aged men and women: Is it important to distinguish agency and pathways components? Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 22, 121–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  16. Cohen, J. (1992). A power primer. Psychological Bulletin, 112(1), 155–159.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Cowen, E. L. (1991). In pursuit of wellness. American Psychologist, 46, 404–408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Damon, W., Menon, J., & Bronk, K. C. (2003). The development of purpose during adolescence. Applied Developmental Science, 7, 119–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dryfoos, J. G. (2000). Safe passage: Making it through adolescence in a risky society. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Eccles, J. S., Midgley, C., Wigfield, A., Buchanan, C. M., Reuman, D., Flanagan, C., & Iver, D. M. (1993). Development during adolescence: The impact of stage-environment fit on young adolescents’ experiences in schools and in families. American Psychologist, 48(2), 90–101.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Ewing, C. A., MacDonald, P. M., Taylor, M., & Bowers, M. J. (2007). Equine-facilitated learning for youths with severe emotional disorders: A quantitative and qualitative study. Child and Youth Care Forum, 36, 59–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Faul, F., Erdfelder, E., Buchner, A., & Lang, A.-G. (2009). Statistical power analyses using G*Power 3.1: Tests for correlation and regression analyses. Behavior Research Methods, 41, 1149–1160.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Frederick, K. (2011). Adolescent Domain-Specific Hope Scale. Google Scholar
  24. Hagen, K. A., Myers, B. J., & Mackintosh, V. H. (2005). Hope, social support, and behavioral problems in at-risk children. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 75, 211–219.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Harrington, R., & Clark, A. (1998). Prevention and early intervention for depression in adolescence and early adult life. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 248, 32–45.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Johnson, N. G., Roberts, M. C., & Worell, J. (Eds.). (1999). Beyond appearances: A new look at adolescent girls. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  27. Katcher, A. H., & Wilkins, G. G. (1998). Animal-assisted therapy in the treatment of disruptive behavior disorders in children. In A. Lundberg (Ed.), The environment and mental health: A guide for clinicians (pp. 193–204). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.Google Scholar
  28. Kersten, G. & Thomas, L. (2004) Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Learning Un-Training Manual. Santaquin, UT: Equine assisted growth and learning association (EAGALA).Google Scholar
  29. Konstantinidis, A., Martiny, K., Bech, P., & Kasper, S. (2011). A comparison of the major depression inventory and the beck depression inventory in severely depressed patients. International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice, 15, 56–61.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Marx, R. D., & Cumella, E. J. (2003). Questions and answers. Eating Disorders, 11, 143–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. McCormick, A., & McCormick, M. D. (1997). Horse sense and the human heart: what horses can teach us about trust, bonding, creativity, and spirituality. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications Inc.Google Scholar
  32. Moore, L., Wagner, P., & Jeffrey, H. (2009). Addiction programming model at its best. Paper presented at the 10th annual conference of the equine assisted growth and learning association, Asheville, NC.Google Scholar
  33. Morris, R. (2000). Curriculum for at-risk students. Carrollton, GA: State University of West Georgia.Google Scholar
  34. Olsen, L. R., Jensen, D. V., Noerholdm, V., Martiny, K., & Bech, P. (2003). The internal and external validity of the Major Depression Inventory in measuring severity of depressive states. Psychological Medicine, 33, 351–356.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Schmid, K. L., Phelps, E., Kiely, M. K., Napolitano, C. M., Boyd, M. J., & Lerner, R. M. (2011). The role of adolescents’ hopeful futures in predicting positive and negative developmental trajectories: Findings from the 4-H study of positive youth development. Journal of Positive Psychology, 6, 45–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Snyder, C. R. (1994). The psychology of hope: You can get there from here. New York, NY: Free Press.Google Scholar
  37. Snyder, C. R., Cheavins, J., & Michael, S. T. (1997a). Hope: An individual motive for social commerce. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 1, 107–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Snyder, C. R., Hoza, B., Pelham, W. E., Rapoff, M., Ware, L., Danovsky, M., et al. (1997b). The development and validation of the children’s hope scale. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 22, 399–421.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Texas Education Agency (2009). Glossary for the Academic Excellence Indicator System 2009-2010. Retrieved from:
  40. Trotter, K. S., Chandler, C. K., Goodwin-Bond, D. G., & Casey, J. (2008). A comparative study of the efficacy of group equine assisted counseling with at-risk children and adolescents. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 3(3), 254–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tyler, J. J. (1994). Equine psychotherapy: Worth more than just a horse laugh. Women and Therapy, 15(3–4), 139–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Valle, M. F., Huebner, E. S., & Suldo, S. M. (2006). An analysis of hope as a psychological strength. Journal of School Psychology, 44, 393–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Vasey, M.W., & Thayer, J.F. (1987). The continuing problem of false positives in repeated measures ANOVA in psychophysiology: A multivariate solution. Psychophysiology, 24, 479–486.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen E. Frederick
    • 1
  • Julie Ivey Hatz
    • 2
  • Beth Lanning
    • 2
  1. 1.University of Mary Hardin-BaylorBeltonUSA
  2. 2.Baylor UniversityWacoUSA

Personalised recommendations