Children with ADHD may benefit from equine-assisted activities and therapy (EAA/T), a recent study from Korea suggests.
This study investigated the effectiveness of EAA/T in unmedicated Korean children with ADHD (n=20 [19 boys and 1 girl], aged 6–13 years) in improving core ADHD symptoms. Over a 12-week period, they completed 24 sessions of EAA/T, which comprised of unmounted periods spent grooming and feeding the horse and on-horse periods that were designed to improve attention and inhibit impulsivity. The primary outcome measure was response to treatment, defined as either a 30% reduction in the pre-therapy ARS-I* score or a CGI-I† score of 1 or 2 following 12 weeks of EAA/T. The K-CBCL‡ was also used to measure changes in social competence.
EAA/T was associated with significant improvements in core ADHD symptoms over 12 weeks versus baseline (p<0.001 for both ARS-I and CGI-I scores), with response rates of 90% and 85% for ARS-I and CGI-I outcomes, respectively. The total score on the ARS-I scale decreased from 33.65 ± 6.42 at baseline to 16.80 ± 6.86 after 12 weeks of EAA/T (p<0.001). Furthermore, a significant improvement was seen in the social problems subscale of the K-CBCL versus baseline (p=0.030).
The authors attribute the improvement in ADHD symptoms to a combination of factors, including the physical exercise and elements of motion simulation associated with EAA/T. On the basis of these findings, EAA/T could represent a viable treatment strategy for children with ADHD, potentially in combination with pharmacological treatment. Acknowledged limitations of the study included the lack of a control group or direct comparisons with other ADHD treatments. Girls were also underrepresented in the study population.
Read more about equine-assisted therapy for children with ADHD here
†Clinical Global Impressions-Improvement Scale
‡Korea-Child Behaviour Checklist
Jang B, Song J, Kim J, et al. Equine-assisted activities and therapy for treating children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. J Altern Complement Med 2015; 21: 546-553.