Can horses bring health benefits to people? [H&H VIP]

  • Riding is widely believed to be helpful to disabled children and adults, but is it real physical therapy?

    Two recent research papers suggest that it is. In one study, six able-bodied children aged between eight and 12 were fitted with sensors that recorded their pelvic movements as they walked. The same children, none of whom were experienced horse riders, were then put on lead-rein ponies that were walked about while the measurements were repeated.

    The results showed that passive riding mimics the natural active walking motion of the pelvis to a remarkable degree. This is beneficial for children who cannot walk normally, since it stimulates muscle activity in the back and abdominal wall and supports the normal function of pelvic organs.

    In another study, 30 elderly residents in a care home were put on an equine simulator designed to replicate precisely the saddle movements of a horse at walk.

    They rode the “horse” for 20min a day for eight weeks.

    Two assessments were then made: the strength and activity of their lumbar and pelvic muscles, and their stability and resistance to falling.

    When the measurements for the riders were compared with those for closely matched counterparts that had not been riding, there was a clear difference.

    The riding golden oldies had improved the strength of their lower body muscles and reduced their chances of falling over, compared with the other elderly folk who had spent the 20min each day watching television or playing dominos.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 12 February 2015