Stressed? Bring home a horse
Preventing stress could become a bit easier as researcher have now found that working with a horse can significantly reduce stress hormones in youth.
The study gives more scientific credit to the claims of therapeutic horsemanship professionals, parents and children who have reported a positive impact from these types of programmes.
For the study, the researcher designed and implemented an after-school program serving 130 typically developing children over a two-year period that bused students from school to the barn for 12 weeks.
"We found that children who had participated in the 12-week program had significantly lower stress hormone levels throughout the day and in the afternoon, compared to children in the waitlisted group," said Patricia Pendry, a developmental psychologist at Washington State University.
Participants provided six samples of saliva over a two-day period both before and after the 12-week program.
Pendry compared the levels and patterns of stress hormone functioning by measuring cortisol.
"We get excited about that because we know that higher base levels of cortisol - particularly in the afternoon - are considered a potential risk factor for the development of psychopathology," Pendry concluded.
Human-animal interaction programs with horses, dogs, cats and other companion animals have been credited with improving social competence, self-esteem and behaviour in children.
The study appeared in the journal Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin.
(Posted on 25-04-2014)