Equine Therapy

Nadia Shanab | autism, general advice, parenting, tips
5 May 2015

Here is another “natural” therapy for children with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. Equine therapy helps them improve their social and communication skills, as well as getting over some of the anxiety and stress imposed from the sensory overload of the environment they suffer from.
The rhythmic movement of a horse has a calming and relaxing effect. Why? The regular and steady movement of the horse helps the child focus on its pace and hoofs’ tapping. In a way, the distracted mind of the child starts focusing on one parameter or item in her/his surrounding/envrionment. It’s a focus practice that hightens the awareness of the child’s environment as well as her/his own self. It is simply a therapy that soothes the body and clears the mind.

Furthermore, repetitive movement is one of the signs some children with autism exhibit. This familiarity is a source of reassurance that facilitates an easy bonding with the horse. Repetition provides comfort. Predictability eleminates anxiety.

In the previous post “Environmental Enrichment Therapy” we talked about the importance of stimulating the five senses. In equine therapy a wide range of senses are put in practice: the smell, the touch, the hearing, the sight, tactile,…

In this natural setting the child receives so many signals from the environment. The touch of horse’s skin, tail, mane,…the up and down movement, the physical contact and so on, the sunshine, wind, rain,…

Part of practicing this activity is to take care of the horse, like grooming and feeding the animal. Gradually, the child will start socializing and communicating with her/his assigned horse.

In some equine centers it is the horse that chooses the child, which guarantees excellent relationship with the child and a faster bonding.

Once the child feels comfortable, reassured, and relaxed riding a horse, she/he will open up to communicate with the animal and eventually will open up to communicate with humans too. If a child can make an eye contact with an animal, eventually she/he will make eye contact with humans too. One step at a time.

Equine therapy is significantly beneficial for kids on the autism spectrum. It is an outdoor activity, that allows direct contact with an amazing animal. It is a rich and freeing experience.


If this therapy turns out not to be accessible or affordable for you, consider a home pet. Dogs, cats, hamsters, birds, fish,…have proven to have a huge impact on kids with autism to provide more or less the same benefits mentioned above, with the adavantage of being part of the household.

Having a pet initiates social interaction, speech, and reduces severity of behaviors, like temper tantrums.


For your child’s safety, make sure to choose an “assisted” equine therapy.

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