Study will look at equine-assisted therapy in Parkinson’s patients

A forthcoming study will look at the effect of equine-assisted therapy on adults diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

The study, led by researchers at the Texas Woman’s University School of Health Promotion and Kinesiology, is funded by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute. It will compare bradykinesia (slowness of movement) severity and functional outcomes before and after eight weeks of therapy in adults with PD and characterize the resulting human-animal interaction.

Researchers will work with 30 men diagnosed with PD, 40 to 80 years old. Half will complete eight weeks of equine-assisted therapy, and the other half will complete a similar protocol on a horseback riding simulator. The EAT intervention will involve 17 sessions over eight weeks, under the guidance of a licensed physical therapist. Similar protocols will be in place for the simulated riding sessions.

Preliminary data showed an improvement in postural sway and balance after EAT in older adults with balance deficits. This study aims to determine whether these adaptations will lead to improvements in other PD-related symptoms like bradykinesia.

“By promoting interaction and engagement with horses, this study has the potential to positively impact an understudied population while fostering human-animal bonds and improving physical and occupational therapy practices,” said HABRI’s executive director, Steven Feldman.