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Symptoms of dementia may be eased by caring for horses

Dementia is a devastating condition which slowly undermines intellectual functioning and interferes with normal life functions. New research shows that caring for horses may ease the symptoms of dementia reported The Ohio State University on May 5, 2014. This is the first study of its kind to show that spending time with horses eases symptoms of Alzheimer’s dementia.

A Friendly horse
A Friendly horse
Morguefile/Freephoto
A friendly horse
A friendly horse
Morguefile/Freephoto

There was collaboration between The Ohio State University, an equine therapy center and an adult daycare center for this study. The researchers found that that people with Alzheimer’s were able to safely groom, feed and walk horses when they were under supervision. This experience improved their mood and made them not as likely to resist care or become upset later in the day. This study suggests that equinetherapy, which is a treatment used today for children and teens who have emotional and developmental disorders, could also work for adults. This offers a unique way to ease the symptoms of dementia without using drugs.

The researchers wanted to see if people with dementia could have positive interactions with horses. They discovered such interactions were certainly possible. The mood of the dementia sufferers was immediately lifted when they interacted with horses and there were fewer incidents of negative behavior. The equinetherapy helps patients feel better and enjoy themselves quickly.

This research has been published in the journal Anthrozoös, which is a multidisciplinary journal dealing with the interactions of people and animals. The goal of this exploratory study was to ascertain the feasibility and effectiveness of using guided interactions with horses as a nonpharmaceutical intervention aimed at improving the physiological and behavioral states of people with dementia.

Older people with Alzheimer's disease and associated dementias engaged positively in animal-assisted therapy with horses. There were less behavioral problems found post intervention in contrast to the comparison group. Clearly, equine-assisted interventions are possible and may be beneficial for adults with Alzheimer's disease or an associated dementia disorder.