A new way of helping children with Autism?

Rupert at Equicate
Rupert at Equicate

Aylesbury resident and mum, Naomi Masters, first heard about therapeutic horseback riding through her son Rupert’s school.

A new study, the first of its kind, has shown that children with autism engaging in therapeutic horseback riding (THR) received both immediate and long-term benefits, and had significantly better social and communication skills as a result of therapy.

Evidence has shown that children on the spectrum who had direct interaction with horses had improvements in irritability, hyperactivity and work fluency.

Someone who is benefiting from this type of therapy is Aylesbury resident, Naomi Masters and her 10-year-old son Rupert who has autism.

Aylesbury resident and mum, Naomi Masters, first heard about therapeutic horseback riding through her son Rupert’s school.

Rupert (age 10) was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and often has difficulty expressing his thoughts and emotions if distressed.

Naomi had heard about the potential benefits of animal assisted therapy and began bringing Rupert to after-school sessions at Equicate, a local equine-facilitated learning initiative, in June 2018.

At first, Naomi was concerned that Rupert, who has grown up around farm animals, may not take to horses so well, as their temperaments can be quite different to smaller animals.

She needn’t have worried however, as the experience has been incredibly positive.

‘Rupert has always liked horses, and he is able to really “switch off” and relax around them’, says Naomi.

‘It’s a very relaxed environment, and there’s been a noticeable improvement in his temperament and confidence when at the yard, as well as a reduction in his anxiety.’

Naomi notes that on the days where Rupert is reminded he is riding after school, he tries harder in classes, as he realises that his behaviour and efforts at school can correlate to how enjoyable his experience is at the yard with the horses.

‘After he has spent an enjoyable afternoon there, he is calmer, and his behaviour is more relaxed into the evening’ explains Naomi.

‘Although he still struggles to express his emotions and thoughts verbally when he’s distressed, there has been a visible improvement in his physical responses in certain situations, and his reactions in unfamiliar social settings with others are becoming less adverse.’

Although 10-year-old Rupert has only been involved in the therapy for a few months, Naomi is already a strong advocate for its positive benefits and would encourage parents in a similar situation to consider exploring the potential of therapeutic horseback riding.