Project Detail
Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) logo
Office of Autism Research Coordination (OARC) logo

Effects of therapeutic horseback riding on children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders  

Therapeutic horseback riding (THR) is frequently sought out as an alternative treatment to address the behavioral disturbances that often impair the quality of daily life for individuals with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD); however, there are only a few published evidence-based THR studies to guide clinicians and consumers. This study aims to expand on a pilot study that found significant improvement in self-regulation, communication, and motor skills for ASD participants involved in 10 weeks of therapeutic horseback riding compared to a 10 week waitlist control group. This study will attempt to replicate these pilot findings as well as the social motivation findings from a recent THR study by examining a larger sample and using a randomized control design. Furthermore, it will test whether the human-animal interaction is necessary for the significant changes observed in the pilot study. This question will be examined by comparing ASD participants' involvement in 10 hours of weekly therapeutic horseback riding (n = 40) to a barn activity control group (n = 40) that targets the same therapeutic goals and controls for time and attention effects, but has no human-animal interaction. Pre-and post-intervention evaluations will assess participants' self-regulation, communication, socialization, and motor functioning. A secondary aim of the study is to determine if improvements made as a result of involvement in 10 weeks of THR persist approximately six months beyond the THR intervention. Determining if and how the human-animal interaction via THR is helpful to individuals with an ASD has far-reaching implications for the quality of life in this ASD population and their caregivers. Project Status


Funder National Institutes of Health
Fiscal Year Funding $305,605.00
Current Award Period 2010-2014
Project Number 1R01NR012736-01
Principal Investigator Gabriels, Robin
Received ARRA Funding? No
Strategic Plan Question Question 4: Which Treatments And Interventions Will Help? (Treatments)
Subcategory Occupational, Physical, and Sensory-Based
Strategic Plan Objective Yellow dot: Objective has some degree of funding, but less than the recommended amount. 4SC. Test safety and efficacy of at least five widely used interventions (e.g., nutrition, medications, assisted technologies, sensory integration, medical procedures) that have not been rigorously studied for use in ASD by 2012. IACC Recommended Budget: $27,800,000 over 5 years.
Federal or Private? Federal
Institution University of Colorado Denver
State/Country Colorado
Web Link 1 Effects of therapeutic horseback riding on children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (External web link)
Web Link 2 No URL available.
Web Link 3 No URL available.
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