Riding on horseback not only eases back pain, but also boosts the rider’s confidence and emotional well being, according to a new study. The findings contribute to the growing body of evidence that horseback riding and related equine assistance therapy programs for disabled and injured individuals benefit human participants.
Lead author Margareta Hakanson said that the main reason seems to be “that the movements transferred from the horse’s body to the rider are very like the body movements made by a person walking.”
“There are no excessive movements, but a continuous bilateral influence on postural balance that is enhancing balance reactions and the fine movements in the rider’s trunk,” said Hakanson, a researcher in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine at Goteborg University in Sweden.
For the study, Hakanson and her colleagues analyzed how horseback riding, along with other equine-related therapies, affected 24 patients suffering from back pain and other health problems. Post treatment, riders were evaluated on both their physical and mental well-being. All participants experienced benefits in both areas.
“For those suffering from back pain, a horse at walk provides relaxing movements. Apart from the movement influence, the psychological effects of managing, communicating with and steering a large animal promote self confidence,” Hakanson said. The study is published in the latest issue of the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies.