The breathtaking majesty of equine power and grace has given horses a storied place in the lives and legends of human beings. Now, a new study from Ohio State University has found that horses can also have a near-magical effect on people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Instead of engaging in their usual crafts and exercise classes at an adult day center, eight adults with Alzheimer’s volunteered to feed, walk, paint and groom horses at a local farm once a week for a month. The horses were specially-selected for their calm, easygoing dispositions and participation in a prior therapeutic riding program for children with physical and developmental disabilities.
The effect on the older adults was almost instantaneous, according to Holly Dabelko-Schoney, lead author and associate professor of social work at Ohio State. “The experience immediately lifted their mood, and we saw a connection to fewer incidences of negative behavior,” she says in a university news release.