Literature on effects of equine therapy in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has grown in recent times. Equine therapy is an alternative multimodal intervention that involves utilizing a horse to remediate core impairments in ASD. Recent systematic reviews in this area have several limitations including inclusion of populations other than ASD, assessment of a variety of animal-assisted interventions other than equine therapy, and a failure to conduct quantitative analyses to provide accurate effect size estimates. We conducted a focused systematic review to address these limitations. Our review suggested that equine therapy has beneficial effects on behavioral and to some extent on social communication skills in ASD. The evidence for positive effects of equine therapy on perceptuo-motor, cognitive, and functional skills is currently limited.
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DC and AB’s work on this manuscript was supported by the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) grant from the Maternal & Child Health Bureau (MCHB) of the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) under grant number T73MC30116 (PI: Beth Mineo and Co-I: Brian Freedman). AB’s work on this manuscript was also supported by an Institutional Development Award (IDeA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under grant number U54-GM104941 (PI: Binder-Macleod).
Conflict of Interest
The author declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Appendix 1: Search Terms for Databases
(“hippotherapy” OR “horse-riding” OR “therapeutic horseback riding” OR “horseback riding” OR “therapeutic riding” OR “equine therapy” OR “pet therapy” OR “animal-assisted” OR “equine-assisted” OR “horse therapy” OR “equine movement” OR “equine facilitated therapy” OR “equine-assisted therapy”[MeSH Terms] OR “animal-assisted therapy”[MeSH Terms])
AND (“Autistic Disorder”[MeSH Terms] OR “autism” OR “autistic” OR “autism spectrum disorder” OR “ASD” OR “ASDs”)
Appendix 2: Final Coding Sheet per Study
Coding Form: Effects of Equine Therapy on Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review.
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Srinivasan, S.M., Cavagnino, D.T. & Bhat, A.N. Effects of Equine Therapy on Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder: a Systematic Review. Rev J Autism Dev Disord 5, 156–175 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40489-018-0130-z
- Equine therapy
- Therapeutic horseback riding
- Social communication