Quality of life assessments were used in this study to determine the behavioral changes of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who participated in equine assisted activities. Behavioral changes of children with ASD participating in 9 weeks of equines assisted activities (EAA) (N = 10) were compared to behavioral changes of children who participated in a non-equine intervention (N = 8). Parents noted significant improvements in their child’s physical, emotional and social functioning following the first 6 weeks of EAA. The children participating in the non-equine program also demonstrated improvement in behavior, but to a lesser degree. The favorable outcome of this study lends support for continuation of programs utilizing EAA in the treatment of children with ASD.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). http://dsm.psychiatryonline.org/book.aspx?bookid=556.
Bass, M. M., Duchowny, C. A., & Llabre, M. M. (2009). The effect of therapeutic riding on social functioning in children with Autism. Journal of Autism Developmental Disorders, 39, 1261–1267.
Bellini, S., Peters, J. K., Benner, L., & Hopf, A. (2007). A meta-analysis of school-based social skills interventions for children with autism spectrum disorder. Redial and Special Education, 28(3), 153–162. doi:10.1177/07419325070280030401.
Burch, M. R. (1995). Volunteering with your pet: How to get started in AAT with any kind of pet. New York: Howell House.
Case-Smith, J., & Arbesman, M. (2008). Evidence based review of interventions for autism used in or of relevance to occupational therapy. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 62(4), 416–429. doi:10.5014/ajot.62.4.416.
Dingman, A. (2008). Hoof prints: Equine therapy for children with autistic children. Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice, 21(4), 11–13.
Dunn, W., Saiter, J., & Rinner, L. (2002). Asperger Syndrome and sensory processing: A Conceptual model and guidance for intervention planning. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 17, 172–185.
Eldevik, S., Hastings, R. P., Hughes, J. C., Jahr, E., Eikeseth, S., & Cross, S. (2009). Meta-analysis of early intensive behavioral intervention for children with autism. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 38(3), 439–450.
Gabriels, R. L., Agnew, J. A., Holt, K. D., Shoffner, A., Zhaoxing, P., Ruzzano, S., et al. (2012). Pilot study measuring the effects of therapeutic horseback riding on school-age children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 6(2), 578–588.
Kern, J. K., Fletcher, C. L., Garver, C. R., Mehta, J. A., Grannemann, B. D., Knox, K. R., et al. (2011). Prospective trial of equine assisted activities in autism spectrum disorder. Alternative Therapies, 17(3), 14–20.
Langraf, J. M., & Ware, J. E. (2008). The CHQ user’s manual. Boston: HealthActCHQ Inc.
Laushey, K. M., & Heflin, L. J. (2000). Enhancing social skills of kindergarten children with autism through the training of multiple peers and tutors. Journal of Autism and Related Disorders, 30, 183–193.
Limbers, C. A., Heffer, R. W., & Varni, J. W. (2009). Health-related quality of life and cognitive functioning from the perspective of parents of school-aged children with Asperger’s Syndrome utilizing the PedsQL™. Journal of Autism Developmental Disorders, 39, 1529–1541.
Limbers, C. A., Ripperger-Suhler, J., Heffer, R. W., & Varni, J. W. (2011). Patient-reported Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory™ 4.0 Generic Core Scales in pediatric patients with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Comorbid Psychiatric Disorders: Feasibility, reliability and validity. Value in Health, 14, 521–530.
Nuner, J. E., & Griffith, A. C. S. (2012). Early signs of autism: How childcare providers can support parents and navigate referral procedures. Dimensions, 39(1), 20–28.
Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International. EAAT Definitions [internet]. (2014). http://www.pathintl.org.
Raat, H., Botterweck, A. M., Landgraf, J. M., Hoogenveen, W. C., & Essink-Bot, M. L. (2005). Reliability and validity of the short form of the child health questionnaire for parents (CHQ-PF28) in large random school based and general population samples. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 59, 75–82. doi:10.1136/jech.2003.012914.
Reeves, G. D., & Cermak, S. A. (2002). Disorders of praxis. In A. C. Bundy, S. J. Lane, & E. A. Murray (Eds.), Sensory integration: Theory and practice (2nd ed., pp. 71–100). Philadelphia: F.A. Davis.
Riede, M. R. (1988). Physiotherapy on the horse. Washington: The Delta Society.
Rothe, E. Q., Vega, B. J., Torres, R. M., Soler, S. M., & Pazos, R. M. (2005). From kids and horses: Equine facilitated psychotherapy for children. International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology, 5(2), 373–383.
Schmidt, R. A., & Lee, T. D. (2005). Motor comparison and learning. A behavioral emphasis (4th ed.). Champaign, ILL: Human Kinetics.
Schultz, P. N., Remick-Barlow, G. A., & Robbins, L. (2007). Equine-assisted psychotherapy: A mental health promotion/intervention modality for children who have experienced intra-family violence. Health and Social Care in the Community, 15(3), 265–271.
Valenti, M., Cerbo, R., Masedu, F., De Caris, M., & Sorge, G. (2010). Intensive intervention for children and adolescents with autism in a community setting in Italy: A single group longitudinal study. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 4(23), 1–9.
Varni, J. W., Seid, M., & Kurtin, P. S. (2001). PedsQL 4.0: Reliability and validity of the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory version 4.0 generic core scales in healthy and patient populations. Medical Care, 8, 800–812.
Ward, S. C., Whalon, K., Rusnak, K., Wendell, K., & Paschall, N. (2013). The association between therapeutic horseback riding and the social communication and sensory reactions of children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. doi:10.1007/s10803-013-1773-3.
Wuang, Y., Wang, C., Huang, M., & Su, C. (2010). Effectiveness of simulated developmental horse-riding program in children with autism. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 27, 113–126.
Zadnikar, M., & Kastrin, A. (2011). Effects of hippotherapy and therapeutic horseback riding on postural comparison or balance in children with cerebral palsy: A meta-analysis. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 53(8), 684–691.
We would like to thank all the staff at: Ride on Center for Kids (R.O.C.K.) in Georgetown, Texas, Riding Equines to Achieve Confidence and Health (R.E.A.C.H.) in McGregor, Texas, and the Baylor Autism Resource Center for all their help with this study. We would also like to thank the parents of the children who participated in this study for their willingness to be a part of the study.
About this article
Cite this article
Lanning, B.A., Baier, M.E.M., Ivey-Hatz, J. et al. Effects of Equine Assisted Activities on Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 44, 1897–1907 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-014-2062-5
- Equine assisted activities and therapies
- Quality of life
- Therapeutic horseback riding