Research shows that individuals who participate in equine-assisted activities can experience physical, behavioral, cognitive, creative, emotional, linguistic, sensory and social benefits. Observing, interacting and working with horses not only engages individuals, but can also help them learn about themselves and their environment. Experiential learning has more carry over and gives ability to generalize skills learned.
The horse’s movement provides multidimensional input, which is variable, rhythmic and repetitive. The horse’s gait mimics the natural movement of the human pelvis during walking. As the horse is asked to change direction, modulate speed, and make gait transitions, riders are continually making adjustments in their position to accommodate the movements. These adjustments help to strengthen their core muscles and posture. The positive effects of the horse’s movement on postural control, sensory systems, and motor planning also befit sensory integration, attentional, fine and gross motor skills.
One does not have to ride to achieve benefits from equine-assisted activities. Interacting with the horse by learning to groom, care, tack, and exercise by leading the horse can be calming and relaxing. Touching, petting or even getting a hug can be the motivation for learning new skills, experience independence and increased confidence.