Looking After Horses Reduces Stress, Study Says
By Karla Danica Figuerres | April 28, 2014 12:55 PM EST
A new research claimed that looking after horses and horseback riding can help lessen stress and anxiety among teenagers.
A study confirmed that young people who consumed their time grooming, managing and riding horses had lesser amounts of stress hormones.
The researchers examined the saliva of 130 youths who were enrolled in a school horsemanship course that lasted 12 weeks. The enrolees spent 90 minutes a week educating themselves about grooming and horsemanship.
Before and after the 12-week programme, every teenager gave six samples of saliva for 2 days. After getting the samples, the researchers evaluated the levels of stress hormone cortisol.
The data gathered from the study was released in the American Psychological Association's Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin. The research findings showed that youth who played with horses had considerably lower stress levels than a control group.
"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," Dr Patricia Pendry, from Washington State University, stated.
"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," she added.
It is hoped that the research could be a first step in discovering ways to avoid teenagers developing mental health problems.
Earlier findings have already found that interacting with dogs, horses and cats can be beneficial for children, as it improves teenagers' self-esteem. However, the idea of horses as reducing stress in adolescents has never before been researched.
"We were coming at this from a prevention perspective," said Pendry. She hopes that horsemanship could be used as a type of therapy for people with psychological and mental problems.
"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.
"The beauty of studying stress hormones is that they can be sampled quite noninvasively and conveniently by sampling saliva in naturalistic settings as individuals go about their regular day," she ended.
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