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, 43 (3), 279-288

Effects of Therapeutic Horseback Riding on Cognition and Language in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder or Intellectual Disability: A Preliminary Study


Effects of Therapeutic Horseback Riding on Cognition and Language in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder or Intellectual Disability: A Preliminary Study

Sara Kwon et al. Ann Rehabil Med.


Objective: To investigate if therapeutic horseback riding (THR) can improve language and cognitive function in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or intellectual disability (ID).

Methods: We conducted a prospective case-control study on children diagnosed with ASD or ID. Eighteen and 11 children were enrolled for THR and control groups, respectively. For 8 weeks, those in the THR group underwent conventional therapy plus 30 minutes of THR per week while controls only received conventional therapy. Participants' language (using Receptive and Expressive Vocabulary Test [REVT] and Preschool Receptive-Expressive Language Scale [PRES]) and cognitive abilities (using Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children [K-ABC] and the cognitive domain of Bayley Scales of Infant Development-II [BSID-II]) were assessed at baseline and at 8 weeks after treatment.

Results: There was no baseline difference between the two groups. In the THR group, there were statistically significant improvements in most domains after THR including receptive and expressive language and cognition compared to those before THR. In the control group, however, only receptive vocabulary ability assessed by REVT and cognitive function assessed by BSID-II showed improvements after conventional therapy. However, there were no statistically significant differences in language or cognitive abilities between the two groups at 8 weeks after treatment.

Conclusion: These results suggest that THR might improve language and cognitive abilities. Although the mechanisms and pathways involved in such improvements are currently unclear based on our findings, THR might have potential to optimize language and cognitive abilities of children with ASD and ID.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder; Cognition; Intellectual disability; Language; Therapeutic horseback riding.

Conflict of interest statement

No potential conflict of interest relevant to this article was reported.


Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.
Flowchart illustrating the inclusion/exclusion criteria and follow-up of subjects in this study. PRM, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine - Pediatric Division; ASD, autism spectrum disorder; ID, intellectual disability; THR, therapeutic horseback riding.

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