A small pilot study indicates that equine therapy – spending time grooming, feeding and walking with horses – eases symptoms of Alzheimer’s dementia, making patients calmer and happier.
Equine therapy is used today for children and teenagers with emotional and developmental disorders, and the new study indicates that it may also be useful for older adults with Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers at Ohio State University studied 16 people with Alzheimer’s disease who participated in activities at an adult senior daycare center. Eight of the seniors who volunteered for the study were taken to an equine education center while the other eight pursued other activities at the center. The clients visited the farm once a week for four consecutive weeks, grooming, walking and feeding the horses under the supervision of caregivers.
The researchers found that the patients who interacted with horses showed an immediate positive mood change and were less likely to resist care or become agitated later in the day.