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The Effects of Therapeutic Horseback Riding Program on Motor Skills in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Mengxian Zhao1, Yonghao You2, Jinming Li3, Sean Healy4, Alyx Taylor5, Zhihao Zhang3, Linlin Li6, Liye Zou7,*

1 School of Physical Education, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen, 518060, China
2 Department of Sports Science, Hefei Normal University, Hefei, 230601, China
3 Body-Brain-Mind Laboratory, School of Psychology, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen, 518060, China
4 School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health, Dublin City University, Glasnevin, Dublin 9, Ireland
5 School of Rehabilitation, Sport and Psychology, AECC University College, Bournemouth, BH5S2DF, UK
6 School of Sport Social Science, Shandong Sport University, Jinan, 250102, China
7 Key Laboratory of Adolescent Health Assessment and Exercise Intervention of Ministry of Education, East China Normal University, Shanghai, 200241, China

* Corresponding Author: Liye Zou. Email:

International Journal of Mental Health Promotion 2022, 24(4), 475-489.


Therapeutic horseback riding (THR) as an animal-assisted intervention is one of the innovative approaches emerging in the treatment for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The current study was designed to investigate the effects of a 12-week, twice a week THR program on motor skills in sixty-eight children with ASD aged 5–10 years old. All participants selected met the DSM-V criteria for ASD, and a total of fifty-three participants completed the study. A randomized controlled trial design was utilized for the study. Data was collected via a pre-THR test, interim-THR test, and post-THR test to investigate the possible changes in motor skills throughout the 12-week THR program. Results showed that the THR program significantly improved overall motor skills across time points (p < 0.05) and sub-skills of run, gallop and two-hand catch (as compared to the control group, p < 0.05). In conclusion, the THR program may be an effective option for improving motor skills in children with ASD and further investigation with a longer period of intervention is warranted.


Cite This Article

Zhao, M., You, Y., Li, J., Healy, S., Taylor, A. et al. (2022). The Effects of Therapeutic Horseback Riding Program on Motor Skills in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. International Journal of Mental Health Promotion, 24(4), 475–489.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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