Horses and Humans Research
News & Updates
Comparative Effectiveness of Stress Management Techniques and Therapeutic Riding on Stress Levels of Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Researchers at Slippery Rock University recently completed a study funded by the Horses and Humans Research Foundation (HHRF) focused on the comparative effectiveness of stress management techniques and Therapeutic Riding (TR) on stress levels of adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The team, led by principal investigator Dr. Martha Kemeny, compared an evidence-based stress management protocol (HeartMath), a TR protocol, and a no treatment control for 27 young adults ages 13-22 with ASD. All interventions were one hour in length for ten consecutive sessions. The study was a randomized three-period crossover trial in which participants were randomly assigned to the order in which they receive TR, HeartMath, and no treatment control.
Results of this study show that this particular stress management protocol and therapeutic riding protocol are equally effective in decreasing salivary cortisol. However, in comparing the two phases, the therapeutic riding protocol showed greater changes in cortisol levels than did the stress management program.
Pam Cusick, Board President of Horses and Humans Research Foundation, stated "We are thrilled with the results of this study.
Adolescents with autism spectrum disorder report high stress and anxiety levels that impact functioning in the community. We are pleased to see confirmation that therapeutic riding has a positive impact on stress levels and hope that this research will encourage more adolescents with autism will consider therapeutic riding as an option."
For more information regarding this study and other past HHRF funded research visit our website
Welcoming Our Newest Board Members
Nancy Coyne, MD, Tucson, AZ
Nancy Coyne, MD is a Board Certified Psychiatrist with 40 plus years
experience. She has been doing equine facilitated psychotherapy since 2005 in Maine and Arizona. Inspired by Barbara Rector, Ann Alden, and Linda Kohanov, she works with individuals, families and small groups with the horses to help the humans heal from trauma, manage emotional turmoil and connect with nature and themselves. Her work incorporates yoga, art making and sharing with the powerful work of the horse herd.
"I would like to contribute whatever I can to the ongoing discovery of what the horses offer humans in these critical times."
David Schmutz, Glendale, CA
David Schmutz's educational background includes AB Pitzer College (1975) in Classical Studies, Claremont Graduate School (1977) MBA. David spent his career in real estate (Colwell Banker, Bixby Ranch Company) before acquiring the Paddock Riding Club in 1986. This provided the necessary experience in working with horses and individuals through various disciplines. He currently has his Senior accreditation in Dressage ('S') and his 4* from the 'Federation Equestre Internationale' (FEI) in Para Equestrian competition.
"I believe that the relationship between horses and riders, while thousands of years old, is in need of better understanding. Anything we can do to facilitate communication between these two will accrue to the benefit of both in mutual our endeavors."
From the Board President's Desk
It is my honor to serve as the President of the HHRF Board of Directors this year. HHRF exists to fund rigorous scientific research which focuses on the impact horses have on humans. Since 2006, HHRF has funded over a dozen studies on a range of important topics. One of our goals in 2019 is to fund another research project which will demonstrate the therapeutic, social, or technological impact of interacting with horses.
Horses are incredible animals and many of us have worked with horses throughout our lives. While we may know the emotional and physical benefits horses can inspire in therapeutic and recreational environments, many people do not know anything about what horses can do to improve their lives. With this in mind, another of HHRF's 2019 goals is to educate the public about research findings so that equine-assisted activities will become more accessible.
How will we accomplish these goals? By partnerships with individuals and organizations who share our mission and passion demonstrating the impact of horses on humans. I believe that 2019 will be an exciting year for HHRF and I look forward to sharing our growth with you.
Pam Cusick, MA
President, Board of Directors
Future Professional Development of the Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapies Field
The future of equine assisted activities and therapies (EAA/T) is dependent on research. Imagine what we could do if everyone invested even a little?
Horses and Humans Research Foundation strives to move research from the arena to the lab and back to the arena again, where advancements truly impact lives. HHRF, in partnership with visionary donors, has successfully selected and funded critical EAA/T research that is already inspiring and leading the future of this field by:
- Establishing best practices;
- Guiding the development of tomorrow's curricula and therapy plans;
- Providing the required evidence needed to establish credibility with third-party funding sources (e.g., insurance companies) and donors, greatly improving access;
- Gaining the professional recognition and respect EAA/T deserves.
Not all of us can conduct research but we can ALL support it.
Please support knowledge to advance the future of our programs and services by sending your check to HHRF, PO Box 23367, Chagrin Falls, Ohio, 44022, or by donating
Our sincerest gratitude is extended to those who have responded to our 2018 request letter. Our urgent encouragement is extended to the rest of you to please help us advance EAA/T through research. Today!
On behalf of the entire HHRF team, Happy New Year!
P.O. Box 23367 ∙ Chagrin Falls, OH ∙ 44022 ∙ USA
and to learn more about HHRF news on an ongoing basis.
Pam Cusick, MA, President
C. Mike Tomlinson, DVM, MBA, Past President
Evelyn McKelvie, C.E.C., V. President
Patricia Ochman, B.C.L., LL.B, Secretary
Sally Lehnhardt, Treasurer
Nancy Coyne, MD
Molly Sweeney, Emerita Status
Ken Boyden, JD, EdD, Executive Director (nonvoting)
Allan Hamilton, MD
Philip Tedeschi, MSSW, LCSW
Heather Ajzenman, OTD, OTR/L
Ann Baldwin, PhD
Heidi Banse, DVM, PhD, DACVIM (LA)
Margaret Bass, PhD
Susan Brenneman, PT, PhD
Virginia Buechner-Maxwell, DVM
Renee Casady, PT,MS,HPCS
Pam Cusick, MA
Lydia Donaldson, VMD, PhD, Diplomate ACVAA
Manon Dontje, PhD
Erica Jex Gergely, PhD
Judith Gibbons, PhD
Erin Grogan, PhD
Paul Haefner, PhD
Victoria Haehl, PhD
Carolyn Hammer, DVM, PhD
Donna Latella, EdD, OTR/
Laura Lubbers, PhD
Karyn Malinowski, PhD
Arieahn Matamonasa, PhD
Nancy McGibbon, MS, PT, HPCS
Megan Kiely Mueller, PhD
Pamela Mitchell, PhD
Tim Shurtleff, OTD, OTR/L
Maureen Vidrine, DNP, APRN-PMH. BC
Leslie Williams, DVM, MPH, DACVA
PhD, OTR, FAOTA