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A new study shows that kids who work with horses experience a substantial reduction in stress.
“We were coming at this from a prevention perspective,” noted Patricia Pendry, developmental psychologist at WSU. “We are especially interested in optimizing healthy stress hormone production in young adolescents, because we know from other research that healthy stress hormone patterns may protect against the development of physical and mental health problems.”
This is the first evidence-based research in the field of human-equine interaction measuring the stress hormone cortisol in teens. “The beauty of studying stress hormones is that they and be sampled quite noninvasively and conveniently by sampling saliva in naturalistic settings as individual go about their regular day,” Pendry stated. Plenty of animal programs have been credited with improving social competence, self-esteem and behavior in children but there hasn’t been any hard data.
An afterschool program developed serving 130 typically developing children over a two year period. They bused the kids from school to barn for 12 weeks. The program provided 90 minutes weekly of horse care lessons. The kids provided six saliva samples over two-day periods before and after the program. Cortisol was measured.
“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,” she noted. “We get excited about that because we now that higher base levels of cortisol – particularly in the afternoon – are considered a potential risk factor for the development of psychopathology.”
Source: Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin, MedicalNewsToday
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