Can horses be the key to helping children develop essential life skills? New research shows that being around horses is more than just a fun afternoon activity. Interaction with horses can have a wide range of positive psychological and social effects for children and adolescents.
Numerous scientific studies have shown that being around horses can have a profound impact on children's physical, mental, and social development. Horses can teach children everything from taking responsibility and being persistent to developing communication and teamwork skills. Horses can boost children's self-confidence and help them develop a wide range of skills. Here are five examples of what children can learn from being around horses.
Being around horses can teach children empathy and respect for other living beings. Horses are large animals, and in order to interact with them positively, you must be attentive to their reactions and emotions. Horses respond to our body language, tone of voice, and intentions, and children who learn to understand and respect this can also become better at understanding other people's emotions and reactions. According to a study published in the journal "Anthrozoos" in 2013, it appears that children who interact with horses develop more empathy and social skills than children who do not. The study involved 222 children aged 6-13 years who participated in a summer camp program that included being around horses. The children completed questionnaires before and after the summer camp, and the results showed a significant improvement in their ability to understand other people's feelings after the programme.
Another study from 2015 in "The Journal of Genetic Psychology" showed that children who interact with horses develop more respect for animals and nature than children who do not.
The study involved 154 children aged 6-14 years, some of whom participated in a summer camp program involving being around horses, while others participated in a different summer camp program without horses. The children answered questionnaires before and after the summer camp, and the results showed a significant increase in improvement of respect for animals and nature in the children who participated in the camp with horses, compared to the children in the other camp.
These results suggest that being around horses can give children a greater understanding and respect for other living beings and nature, which can teach children more responsible and sustainable behaviour in the future.
Caring for a horse requires time and dedication. Children who learn to take responsibility for a horse's daily needs, such as maintaining order in the stable or ensuring the horse has enough water and food, can learn to take responsibility for other tasks in their lives. Caring for a horse can also teach children to be persistent and stick to a task, even when it can be difficult or time-consuming. Being around horses can help children develop a sense of responsibility and perseverance. Through daily interaction with horses, children learn to take responsibility for another living creature and become more aware of their own actions and consequences. This can help develop their ability to handle responsibility and perseverance in other areas of their lives.
A study from 2015 looked at the effects of a program that involved horses in the treatment of behavioural problems in children. The results showed a significant improvement in the children's ability to take responsibility and handle difficult situations, such as conflicts with their parents or teachers. The children also developed an increased sense of self-control, suggesting that interaction with horses can help promote children's ability to regulate their behaviour. Another study from 2020 examined the effects of a project involving horse therapy for a group of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The researchers found that the children developed an increased ability to take responsibility and plan their tasks after participating in horse therapy. In addition, the results showed that the children's perseverance improved, and this can be an important factor in the development of their social and personal skills. Children who participated in the program developed a greater sense of responsibility and an improved ability to identify and communicate their own needs and desires. The children also showed a greater willingness to take responsibility for their own learning and development.
Riding a horse can give children confidence and self-control. Horses are large animals, and it can be intimidating to get on a horse for the first time. However, as children learn to communicate with the horse and coordinate its movements, they can gain a sense of mastery and control.
A 2020 study in the journal "Animals" found that children who worked with therapy horses experienced an increase in their confidence and self-acceptance. The researchers noted that interaction with horses can give children the opportunity to feel valuable and respected, thus strengthening their self-concept.
Furthermore, dealing with horses requires a certain degree of self-control and discipline, as horses are sensitive animals that respond to even small changes in our behavior. Children, therefore, learn to regulate their demeanor and communicate clearly and calmly with the horse to achieve the desired behavior. This can contribute to the development of self-control and self-regulation in children.
Another study from 2017 in the journal "Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin" found that children who worked with horses experienced an improvement in their self-regulation skills and ability to handle stress. According to the researchers, this is because the children learned to regulate their emotions and behavior in collaboration with the horse.
Overall, dealing with horses and riding requires courage, independence, self-control, and discipline, and it can contribute to children's development of confidence and self-esteem.
Working with horses can teach children teamwork and communication. When working with a horse, it is important to communicate clearly and effectively. Horses respond to our body language, so it is important to be aware of how we move and position ourselves in relation to the horse. Learning to work as a team with one's horse can also contribute to teaching children how to cooperate with others and communicate effectively.
According to research, children's interaction with horses can have positive effects on their social and emotional development. A 2014 article in the journal "Occupational Therapy in Mental Health" describes how equine therapy can help children develop their social skills. The study shows that children learn to read the horse's body language and respond to it appropriately, which can transfer to their interaction with other people. Additionally, children can learn to cooperate with other people to perform daily tasks related to the horse.
Another study from 2015 in the journal "Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools, & Early Intervention" shows how horses can contribute to improving communication skills in children with autism. The researchers found that interaction with horses can promote communication and social interaction, and it can help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness in children.
Both studies demonstrate that interaction with horses can have positive effects on children's ability to cooperate and communicate with others. When children collaborate with others to care for and ride horses, they learn to communicate and work effectively to achieve a common goal. When children learn to read the horse's body language and respond appropriately, these skills can assist them in their interactions with other people.
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Working with horses can also have a positive impact on children's physical health and well-being. Riding and interacting with horses is a great way to get fresh air and exercise, as riding requires children to use various muscle groups in their body. As a result, children gain numerous physical and health benefits from being around horses. Research has shown that children who ride and work with horses experience improvements in balance, coordination, strength, and flexibility, as well as increased endurance and fitness. Besides riding, children can also participate in various activities, such as grooming and caring for horses, which also involve healthy physical activity. A study by Wójcik and Kolankowska showed that children who rode once a week for six months experienced significant improvements in balance and coordination. Another study found that children who worked with horses experienced improvements in muscle strength and flexibility. The study also revealed that children who rode once a week for 12 weeks experienced improvements in fitness and endurance.
The studies suggest that it is essential for children to get away from the couch and screen, as a sedentary lifestyle can lead to various health problems, such as obesity and weakened fitness levels. Riding and interacting with horses is a fun and motivating way to exercise while spending time in nature and away from screens.
It can have a positive impact on children's physical, mental, and emotional health, and riding can help improve their motor skills, body awareness, and self-confidence.