Indexed on: 24 Jan '06Published on: 24 Jan '06Published in: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
To determine whether therapeutic riding resulted in higher levels of stress or frustration for horses than did recreational riding and whether therapeutic riding with at-risk individuals was more stressful for the horses than was therapeutic riding with individuals with physical or emotional handicaps.Observational study.14 horses in a therapeutic riding program.An ethogram of equine behaviors was created, and horses were observed while ridden by 5 groups of riders (recreational riders, physically handicapped riders, psychologically handicapped riders, at risk children, and special education children). Number of stress-related behaviors (ears pinned back, head raised, head turned, head tossed, head shaken, head down, and defecation) was compared among groups.No significant differences in mean number of stress-related behaviors were found when horses were ridden by recreational riders, physically handicapped riders, psychologically handicapped riders, or special education children. However, mean number of stress-related behaviors was significantly higher when horses were ridden by the at-risk children.Results suggest that for horses in a therapeutic riding program, being ridden by physically or psychologically handicapped individuals is no more stressful for the horses than is being ridden in the same setting by recreational riders. However, at-risk children caused more stress to the horses, suggesting that the time horses are ridden by at-risk children should be limited both daily and weekly.