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Equine-assisted intervention for people with dementia

By H. Dabelko-Schoeny, G. Phillips, E. Darrough, S. Deanna, M. Jarden, D. Johnson, G. Lorch

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The purpose of this exploratory study was to determine the feasibility and effectiveness of using guided interactions with horses as a nonpharmaceutical intervention to improve the physiological and behavioral states of persons with dementia. A convenience sample of persons with dementia was recruited from an adult day health center ( n=16). A multi-component intervention was implemented comprised of opportunities for grooming, painting, and leading horses. Using a randomized pretest-posttest crossover design, researchers compared participants receiving the equine-assisted intervention with participants receiving treatment as usual. Older persons with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias engaged positively in animal-assisted therapy with horses. A reduction in behavioral problems was found post intervention in contrast to the comparison group. Pre-intervention measures showed that participants exhibited lower levels of disruptive behaviors compared with the control group on the days they were scheduled to work with the horses. Interestingly, cortisol levels, used as a physiological measure of coping with stress, were elevated after the intervention in participants with higher Mini Mental State Examination scores. Equine-assisted interventions are feasible and possibly beneficial for adults with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia disorder, such as those enrolled in adult day health programs. Future studies should utilize multiple methods of assessing impact and include process measures to delineate which specific activities seem to provide the most benefit.

Publication Title Anthrozoos
Volume 27
Issue 1
Pages 141-155
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
DOI 10.2752/175303714x13837396326611
Language English
Author Address College of Social Work, The Ohio State University, 1947 N. College Road, Columbus, OH 43210,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Alzheimer disease
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animals
  4. Anthrozoology
  5. Dementia
  6. Diseases and injuries of animals
  7. Efficacy
  8. Feasibility
  9. Grooming
  10. Health
  11. Health services
  12. Horses
  13. Humans
  14. Hydrocortisone
  15. Interactions
  16. Interventions
  17. Mammals
  18. Men
  19. Older adults
  20. peer-reviewed
  21. Primates
  22. Research
  23. therapy
  24. ungulates
  25. vertebrates
  1. peer-reviewed