Researches continues to demonstrate the health benefits of spending time with horses, particularly for mental health. A recent study in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina focused on a group of teenagers that had no prior experience of working with horses, who experienced increased anxiety, stress symptoms, and even depression. The perspective one-shot study included 10 participants, 9 girls and 1 boy, ranging in age from 11 to 19 years old. Over twenty five hours during five weeks, the participants were engaged weekly in an Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) program, horse feeding and grooming, handling horses and a riding lessons.
The participants completed approved mental health questionnaires before and after the program, using the Patient Health Questionnaire-4 (PHQ-4) and The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scales (WEMWBS) mental health scales to measure their progress. The results showed that spending time with horses reduced stress and anxiety and had a positive impact on the teenagers’ psychological state, as evidenced by their improved test results after the study. Interestingly, the positive effects of the program were observed after only five weeks. And yes we could measure it! These findings suggests that interacting with horses and participating in EAL sessions can be an effective and efficient form of therapy for individuals struggling with mental health challenges.
Interacting with horses and participating in EAL can be a great method for improving mental health and overall well-being, especially for individuals dealing with mental health issues. Horses are highly sensitive animals that respond to nonverbal cues, making them ideal therapy partners. The process of grooming, petting, and interacting with horses can have a soothing effect on individuals and can help reduce stress and anxiety. Individuals can learn to regulate their emotions, develop communication skills, and build trust and confidence by interacting with these wonderful animals. Working with horses and engaging in EAL may be a joyful and rewarding experience in addition to the therapeutic benefits. Individuals can acquire new skills such as horseback riding and horse care and maintenance, such as feeding and grooming.
Original title of the study: Impact of Horses on Mental Health in Teenagers. Tayra Jusufovic. Personal Project. Internatiolna Baccalaureate, Middle Years Programme, Second Gymnasium Sarajevo.