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Home » Children’s Cognitive Abilities Enhanced by Horseback Riding

Children’s Cognitive Abilities Enhanced by Horseback Riding

Saddle up your child to strengthen their smarts. A study by Mitsuaki Ohta, a professor at the Tokyo University of Agriculture, proves that memory, learning, and problem-solving are all boosted benefits of horseback riding.

The Correlation

A horse’s movements create vibrations that activate the equestrian’s sympathetic nervous system while riding.

This is where Ohta proved, through testing children with simple response and mathematical tests before and after riding a horse, that the effect of these vibrations ultimately improves learning in children.

Not all activity with vibrations are created equally. The specific movements horses produce are, as Ohta explains, “three-dimensional accelerations” which are unique to horses and the experience of horseback riding. These accelerations lead to these cognitive improvements in our children from “the movement of the horse’s pelvis [which] provide motor and sensory inputs to the human body.”

The Study

The study grouped 106 children of ages 10-12 years old, (34 boys and 72 girls), into three groups: horseback riding, walking, and resting.

The children rested on seats alongside a fence for 10 minutes and rode/walked for 10 minutes. After resting for another 5 minutes, they would perform the Go/No-Go tasks, a behavioral test to determine the control capacity (No-Go reaction) and ability to perform an appropriate action depending on the situation (Go reaction).

Once the tasks were performed and completed, the riding or walking resumed, followed by a 10-minute rest. After a second 10-minute session of either walking, riding, or resting, the children completed arithmetic problems.

These testswere calculated to measure the time it took for the children to solve 30 random single-digit addition questions. The findings for solving these mathematical problems weren’t significant, but results for the Go/No-Go responses proved that horses greatly improved the children’s ability to perform behavioral tasks, which lead to bettermemory, learning, and problem solving.

Horses Provide More Benefits Than Just Boosted Brainpower

Equestrians know that the physical benefits of horseback riding are extraordinary. Horseback riding develops balance and improves coordination and motor function, while strengthening muscles and improving the cardiovascular system and joint mobility.

However, on top of the physical benefits and increasing cognitive intelligence, horseback riding supports emotional health.

Equine Therapy

Equine therapy, horse therapy, and equine-assisted therapy are all terms for the same form of experiential therapy. It involves interactions between patients and horses, and the results are promising.

Many of the benefits of equine therapy, such as emotional awareness, empathy, and impulse control, are likely due to their serene nature.

Horses are highly effective at mirroring attitudes and behaviors of the humans with whom they are with, which also show extremely positive results when working with patients.

The most prominent confirmed effectiveness of equine therapy is the research that shows that the horses lower blood pressure and heart rate, alleviate stress, and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Equine therapy also helps people struggling with addictions and mental health disorders, assisting those patients develop the skills for healthy living. Learn more about equine therapy, here.

Horses are gentle and incredibly calming; their presence alone can be immensely healing. They sooth your soul, improve your body, and boost your brain.

Not that you needed another reason to ride.

Ohtani N, Kitagawa K, Mikami K, Kitawaki K, Akiyama J, Fuchikami M, Uchiyama H and Ohta M (2017) Horseback Riding Improves the Ability to Cause the Appropriate Action (Go Reaction) and the Appropriate Self-control (No-Go Reaction) in Children.Front. Public Health5:8. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2017.00008

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