Study: Horseback Riding Helps Kids With Autism, ADHD

First-of-its kind research shows how brain-building exercises and therapeutic horseback riding improve the motor skills of young people with neurodevelopmental disorders.
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Study: Horseback Riding Helps Kids With Autism, ADHD
Researchers have documented the benefits of therapeutic riding for children with autism and ADHD. | Photo: Courtesy Jess Lydon
Therapeutic horseback riding combined with brain-building exercises can improve the dexterity, coordination, and strength of children with neurodevelopmental disorders, shows a study in Frontiers in Veterinary Science.

Neurodevelopmental disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), affect as many as one in six American children. Physical activity is known to benefit these patients in a variety of ways, but this is the first study showing the short- and long-term effects of a program combining horseback riding and cognitive training.

“We wanted to investigate how a combination of equine-assisted activities and various brain-building tasks, administered by a speech therapist, would affect motor skills in children with disorders including autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity,” says Brandon Rigby, PhD, MS, of the Texas Woman’s University, in Denton.

“Our findings should be helpful to therapists and other health care professionals who are tasked with implementing strategies and interventions to improve motor skill proficiency in children and youth with ADHD and ASD, which were the most common diagnoses in our study

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