Prospective trial of equine-assisted activities in autism spectrum disorder

Janet K. Kern, Charles L. Fletcher, Carolyn R. Garver, Jyutika A. Mehta, Bruce D. Grannemann, Kandice R. Knox, Theresia A. Richardson, Madhukar H. Trivedi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Background Anecdotal reports and some studies suggest that equine-assisted activities may be beneficial in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Objective To examine the effects of equine-assisted activities on overall severity of autism symptoms using the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) and the quality of parent-child interactions using the Timberlawn Parent-Child Interaction Scale. In addition, this study examined changes in sensory processing, quality of life, and parental treatment satisfaction. Design and Participants Children with ASD were evaluated at four time points: (1) before beginning a 3-to-6 month waiting period, (2) before starting the riding treatment, and (3) after 3 months and (4) 6 months of riding. Twenty-four participants completed the waiting list period and began the riding program, and 20 participants completed the entire 6 months of riding. Pretreatment was compared to posttreatment with each child acting as his or her own control. Results A reduction in the severity of autism symptoms occurred with the therapeutic riding treatment. There was no change in CARS scores during the pretreatment baseline period; however, there was a significant decrease after treatment at 3 months and 6 months of riding. The Timberlawn Parent- Child Interaction Scale showed a significant improvement in Mood and Tone at 3 months and 6 months of riding and a marginal improvement in the reduction of Negative Regard at 6 months of riding. The parent-rated quality of life measure showed improvement, including the pretreatment waiting period. All of the ratings in the Treatment Satisfaction Survey were between good and very good. Conclusion These results suggest that children with ASD benefit from equine-assisted activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14-20
Number of pages7
JournalAlternative Therapies in Health and Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and alternative medicine


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