equine therapyCertainly anyone willing to try an alternative therapy like equine therapy might also wonder if it is truly effective. And yet, typically, alternative therapies also are shy on research, and finding valid, and relevant studies can be challenging.

In terms of the concerns over effectiveness, equine therapy is no different. However, a new study, recently published in Health Psychology should lay some concerns to rest.

In a review of research already conducted  for both physical and psychological challenges using equine therapy, Alison Selby of the Child and Family Guidance Centers in Plano, Texas. Using the Grades of Recommendation, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) Selby looked at the results of 104 studies and found that 9 out of 14 individual reports, showed significant positive outcomes as a direct result of working with horses. Positive outcomes in terms of the equine therapy studies were described as decreased behavioral, psychological, physical, and psychosocial challenges.

Not surprisingly, while demonstrating beneficial outcomes on physical and psychological challenges, equine therapy also had a very positive overall effect on mood. However, Selby did note that, “especially longitudinal studies and comparisons with established effective treatments,” would be needed to more comprehensively provide support for the efficacy of equine therapy.

Through this review of a very large amount of data, Selby’s research is a very promising step for equine therapy in that it does answer the question, “Is equine therapy effective for a broad spectrum of people?”

Now, as Selby mentions, the question remains, “Do the positive changes experienced as a result of working with horses last over a period of months and even years?”

We will be looking forward to future research to answer this question, but for now, we can enjoy some times with horses, knowing that our mood will be the better for it.

Selby, A., Smith-Osborne, A. (2012). A systematic review of effectiveness of complementary and adjunct therapies and interventions involving equines. Health  Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029188

Happy horsewoman photo available from Shutterstock