A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Winter, 2019 | Number 1, Volume 33

Lasting benefits seen from horseback riding therapy

A follow-up study on the effects of therapeutic horseback riding suggests that it has significant long-term benefits for children with autism spectrum disorders. 

In previous research in 2015 involving 127 participants with ASD, a team led by Robin Gabriels found that children participating in a 10-week therapeutic riding program exhibited improvements in irritability and hyperactivity as well as increased word fluency compared to children participating in activities in a barn setting but not interacting with horses.

In the new study, the researchers reevaluated 64 of the children six months after their therapy sessions ended. They found that the children continued to exhibit reductions in irritability (although not hyperactivity) compared to the controls. In addition, the riding group sustained their initial improvements in social communication and word fluency.

Gabriels comments, “There is growing evidence that human-animal interventions can improve emotional health and social wellness in youth, particularly those with autism spectrum disorder. Our study was rigorous, and the findings remarkable.”


“Long-term effect of therapeutic horseback riding in youth with autism spectrum disorder: a randomized trial,” Robin L. Gabriels, Zhaoxing Pan, Noémie A. Guérin, Briar Dechant, and Gary Mesibov, Frontiers in Veterinary Science, July

16, 2018 (free online). Address: Robin Gabriels, [email protected].


“Children with autism spectrum see benefits from equine therapy,” David Kelly, news release, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus,October 30, 2018.