Prospective trial of equine-assisted activities in autism spectrum disorder

Altern Ther Health Med. May-Jun 2011;17(3):14-20.


Background: Anecdotal reports and some studies suggest that equine-assisted activities may be beneficial in autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Objective: To examine the effects ofequine-assisted activities on overall severity of autism symptoms using the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) and the quality ofparent-child interactions using the Timberlawn Parent-Child Interaction Scale. In addition, this study examined changes in sensory processing, quality of life, and parental treatment satisfaction.

Design and participants: Children with ASD were evaluated at four time points: (1) before beginning a 3-to-6 month waiting period, (2) before starting the riding treatment, and (3) after 3 months and (4) 6 months of riding. Twenty-four participants completed the waiting list period and began the riding program, and 20 participants completed the entire 6 months of riding. Pretreatment was compared to posttreatment with each child acting as his or her own control.

Results: A reduction in the severity of autism symptoms occurred with the therapeutic riding treatment. There was no change in CARS scores during the pretreatment baseline period; however, there was a significant decrease after treatment at 3 months and 6 months of riding. The Timberlawn Parent-Child Interaction Scale showed a significant improvement in Mood and Tone at 3 months and 6 months of riding and a marginal improvement in the reduction of Negative Regard at 6 months of riding. The parent-rated quality of life measure showed improvement, including the pretreatment waiting period. All of the ratings in the Treatment Satisfaction Survey were between good and very good.

Conclusion: These results suggest that children with ASD benefit from equine-assisted activities.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / psychology*
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / complications
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / psychology*
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / therapy*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Equine-Assisted Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Human-Animal Bond
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Skills Disorders / etiology
  • Motor Skills Disorders / psychology
  • Motor Skills Disorders / therapy*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sensation Disorders / etiology
  • Sensation Disorders / psychology
  • Sensation Disorders / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome