Research shows that horse back riding and caring for a horse pays huge dividends for many people including the disabled and children with autism. Promising results in adults suffering from depression and various addictions, too, are gaining wide-spread acceptance as they focus on relationships and responsibility.
Research is now taking advantage of the special relationship between children and horses to help children with autism reconnect with the world. Researchers realize that horses are not only intelligent, but they also seem to have a particular rapport with people, recognizing how a person feels and empathising with their mood.
In fact, researchers believe a horse can act as the perfect mirror for a person's mental state. Therapists working with autistic children and teenagers dealing with behavioral problems recognize horse therapy has psychological benefits.
Equine-assisted therapies have been shown to help military veterans work through their fears and anxieties because the horse becomes a dependable and loyal friend.
With autism the effect of a horse is more specific. There are clinical records showing that simply being around a horse changes brainwaves.
Autistic people become calmer, more focused and centered, which is why summer horse camps for families with autistic children can turn out to be life-changing events.
In addition, a research study on the effects of hippotherapy as physical therapy, utilizing the movement of a horse on muscle activity in children with spastic cerebral palsy, showed improved symmetry in muscle activity that carried over into other activities
Horses, being herd animals, read body language very well and will react sympathetically to the needs of other members of the herd including the humans they become involved with during equine-assisted therapy, making them an ideal partner for learning new ways to cope with situations.