A new study has found that equine therapy is more helpful than previously thought -- and for a completely different group of people. According to researchers at Ohio State University, therapy horses -- who commonly provide treatment for children and teens with emotional issues -- have remarkable value to Alzheimer's patients.
"We wanted to test whether people with dementia could have positive interactions with horses, and we found that they can -- absolutely," said Holly Dabelko-Schoeny, the study's lead researcher. "The experience immediately lifted their mood, and we saw a connection to fewer incidents of negative behavior."
Dabelko-Schoeny and her colleagues discovered that interaction with horses not only boosted participants' moods, but also made them less likely to resist care afterward. The patients also exhibited somewhat improved memory: according to one participant's child, her mother "would never remember what she did at the center during the day, but she always remembered what she did at the farm." The results could have important ramifications: equine therapy ostensibly improves quality of life for those who suffer from Alzheimer's, as well as for their caretakers, without the use of psychoactive drugs.
"Our focus is on the 'now,'" Dabelko-Schoeny said. "What can we do to make them feel better and enjoy themselves right now? Even if they don't remember it later, how can we help in this moment?" The answer, it seems, is to bring in the horses.