Multiple studies have investigated the positive effects of human-animal interactions and showed that animal-assisted activities can be successfully used to better human physical and mental health. Equine-assisted activities have also raised considerable attention within the field. Our research focuses on healthy students (aged 14-18) without deviations or special educational needs. We analyze the occurrence of behavior problems and prosocial behavior among adolescents who regularly have interactions with horses, and those who have no connection to horses at all. The subjects of our investigation completed the strengths and difficulties questionnaire (SDQ), and we use a 'quasi' 2 × 2 before-after control-impact design to analyze the data. Students studying equine-related vocations and students of other vocations are compared, at the beginning and at the end of their studies. Our results indicate that students of equine-related vocations are more helpful and empathetic, and have fewer behavior problems, than those studying other vocations. There is a negative correlation between prosocial behavior and behavior problems. The development of the prosocial behaviors of students with regular horse-human interactions is more remarkable than of those who have no connection to horses. With these results, we are going to confirm the hypothesis that equine-assisted activities correlate with positive behavioral traits among healthy adolescents.
Keywords: adolescence; behavior problems; equine-assisted activities; prosocial behavior.