Easing Symptoms of ADHD through Equine Therapy

In today’s day and age it isn’t uncommon to be distracted by media, technology, busy schedules, and the hustle and bustle of a fast-paced world. For some it is difficult to escape from these distractions and to avoid the effects they may have. Millions of people in today’s society are living with a disorder that makes it difficult to focus and to control impulses. This disorder is called attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and it can be a challenging disorder to live with.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the prevalence of ADHD today is rising at an alarming rate. The National Institute of Mental Health stated, “Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.” Symptoms of this disorder are:

  • Inattention where a person wanders off task, lacks persistence, has difficulty sustaining focus and is disorganized. These problems are not due to defiance or lack of comprehension.
  • Hyperactivity which means a person seems to move about constantly (including situations where hyperactivity is not appropriate), excessively fidgets, taps, or talks. In adults, it may be extreme restlessness or wearing others out with their activity.
  • Impulsivity where a person makes hasty actions that occur in the moment without first thinking about them and that may have high potential for harm.  It also includes a desire for immediate rewards or an inability to delay gratification. An impulsive person may be socially intrusive and excessively interrupt others or make important decisions without considering the long-term consequences.


While there are many approaches to treating ADHD in children and adults one method that has proven successful in helping to heal those dealing with this disorder is the use of equestrian therapy. Horses are experts at mirroring human behavior and emotions. They tend to reflect the mood, energy, and emotions shown by those who are working with them. This can be quite a wake-up call for an energetic person whose energy and focus are all over the place. It helps them see what their behavior can look like, and the results it can cause. Bringing awareness to their behaviors can lead the way to positive behavior change in the person with ADHD.

When working around a 1,500 pound animal, a person is aware and focused on what is going on around them – whether atop a horse’s back, or working with the horse from the ground, equine therapy naturally demands a person’s full attention. It helps one to focus on the here and now—helping people to process ideas like “How is the horse responding?” “How is it moving?” “Is it getting too close to me?” ”What do I need to do to control this animal?”  Or “How can I better understand this creature and cause positive changes to happen?”

According to an article at attitudemag.com, a study “conducted by researcher Kay Trotter, PhD, LPC, NCC, showed that horse therapy did improve hyperactivity and impulsivity in at-risk children and adolescents.” Trotter’s research followed two groups. The article states, “One group participated in equine-assisted group counseling treatment and the other group received a curriculum-based school counseling intervention. The results of Trotter’s study suggested that equine-assisted treatment was statistically more effective in improving kids’ ability to focus and stay on task. The therapy also significantly improved symptoms of aggression, depression, and anxiety in the group. The participants of equine-assisted treatment adjusted better to new routines and teachers, and easily shifted from one task to another. Self-esteem and self-respect increased, and friendships were less stressful.” http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/9309.htm

The article continues, “Instant feedback is part of the reason that therapy with these “powerful and interesting beings” is so effective, says Kit Muellner, founder of Hope Ranch and a licensed, independent clinical social worker. ‘What’s more, clients feel that they’ve achieved something on their own, rather than being told to do something by a parent or teacher. A 1,500-pound animal responds the way you want him to because you were able to focus. So you’ve accomplished something that you wanted to do, versus doing something somebody else wanted you to do.’”

Equine therapy has been proven to improve symptoms of those living with ADHD. The natural consequences of working with large, thinking, reacting, and loving animals have shown the power to help bring focus, reasoning, and positive behavior change to those who struggle with ADHD. The lessons learned from these magnificent horses can benefit all aspects of a person’s life and dramatically improve the symptoms of ADHD.