Menu
Jump to content

What's with the ads?

Quarter Note

Therapeutic horseback riding – can it really help angry/anxious kids?

Recommended Posts

One of my kids has always been easily angered and has anxiety, but the older he gets the worse the angry outbursts seem to be, and the harder they are on me. He is in OT/PT for sensory issues, but I’m wondering if we should sign him up for therapeutic riding lessons as well. He took horse riding lessons for a month last fall and really enjoyed it and would like to do it again. The instructors are PATH certified so this would be more than just riding lessons. Money and time are tight, of course, but if it could possibly help him calm down we’ll make it happen. 

Any experiences to share? Many thanks!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Horses can be very calming and therapeutic.  Mine started in therapeutic riding and I ended up with 4 horses and a hobby farm.

That said, has he had an evaluation?  Tried medication?  The horses are wonderful but medication (if indicated) could help 7 days a week.

As hard is it is on you, I am sure that he is also feeling the stress of this.  It sounds like it is impairing his daily life.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My dd is in a homeschool horse riding group with some kids with various diagnosis and some neurotypical kids.  It’s been very positive for all of them.  I would say in part that’s due to the absolutely amazing instructor who keeps a calm but discipline environment all the time which is kind of amazing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for responding, @Ottakee! We are just starting to look at more interventions, so he hasn’t had an evaluation yet, but we are going to call to schedule one Monday morning. We haven’t tried medication yet. We’ll see what the neuropsychologist says after the eval. 

Thank you especially for the reminder that this is hard on him, too. I needed that.

I have to laugh about you ending up with a hobby farm. I would love that!  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have not experienced it as a parent, but Dh and I have had some volunteer involvement with a Houston area therapeutic riding organization called SIRE, and I can most definitely say that it can do miracles for some kids. I don't think it's a catch all, but we have seen some very amazing stories for both children and adults with developmental issues as well as traumatized children and adults (PTSD) etc. I would say it is worth a shot for sure. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Ausmumof3, I'm so glad to hear that the group has been such a good experience for your daughter and all the other kids.  I bet the instructor must be wonderful.  Thank you for sharing your experience!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Æthelryth, thank you for sharing what you've seen.  If it can do miracles for some kids, that gives me hope.  Maybe it's more likely to help my son since he already wants to go back to the stable.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, absolutely.  It's similar to martial arts in that you have to focus on your body and your emotions in ways that are easy to ignore for some kids.  That sort of self-awareness leads (incrementally) to self-control.  A horse will respond to the emotions you are actually projecting, not to what you want to project, and if you're holding on to anxiety about some other area of life they will not do exactly what you want them to do, so you're forced to self-correct.  At least with the help of a good instructor.

It also teaches self-confidence (because it's difficult to learn and is a real accomplishment, not a participation trophy), really great posture, and leadership skills in a gentle way.

IME kids who are good with horses also grow up to be good at other areas of leadership, parenting, and dog training.

I grew up with horses, DH with martial arts.  We feel they teach very similar personal traits, even if the skills are different.  Horses are a ton of work though, so if your kid loves it I'd stick to lessons for several years before investing in one.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 minutes ago, Quarter Note said:

We haven’t tried medication yet.

We were trying to hold out on medication, so we ran genetics and found some treatable things. I think the horse riding therapy will be fine, but reality is it doesn't address the chemistry problems and it doesn't improve his interoception (self-awareness) and hence ability to self-regulate and self-advocate. Working on either of those (the chemistry, via meds or genetics/biomedical and the interoception) would be more direct.

https://www.kelly-mahler.com/what-is-interoception/  

If you run the genetics now, it will take a fair number of weeks to get the results back (4+ iirc). 

And fwiw my dd did horse riding a couple summers and I looked into it for ds. His issues were just more than it would solve. He really needed direct help for his significant challenges. But is it fine and good and useful, sure. Great for core, for fine motor, etc. Depends on what they're willing to let the dc do. 

Edited by PeterPan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was told that for self regulation and sensory issues (and core strength), do gymnastics, martial arts, swimming, and horseback riding.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, PeterPan said:

We were trying to hold out on medication, so we ran genetics and found some treatable things. I think the horse riding therapy will be fine, but reality is it doesn't address the chemistry problems and it doesn't improve his interoception (self-awareness) and hence ability to self-regulate and self-advocate. Working on either of those (the chemistry, via meds or genetics/biomedical and the interoception) would be more direct.

https://www.kelly-mahler.com/what-is-interoception/  

If you run the genetics now, it will take a fair number of weeks to get the results back (4+ iirc). 

And fwiw my dd did horse riding a couple summers and I looked into it for ds. His issues were just more than it would solve. He really needed direct help for his significant challenges. But is it fine and good and useful, sure. Great for core, for fine motor, etc. Depends on what they're willing to let the dc do. 

I think it actually can really help with self awareness - it teaches a mind/body connection that can carry over for other things. 

and it can add in a feeling of relationship that can help the kid have a reason to work on the other stuff. 

That said wanted to add that in kids, especially boys, anger is actually just depression redirected outward. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also, although not horses, I can say that for my seriously depressed and anxious kid working with animals, in his case birds of prey, was profoundly life changing and healing. I do not feel it is an exaggeration to say it may have saved his life. 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you, @Katy!  That's interesting that you see the connection to martial arts.  My son also takes jiu-jitsu, but the PT says it may not be enough.  Maybe working with horses will complement his martial arts practice.  

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi @PeterPan.  Who would we go to for "running genetics"? This isn't something that his pediatrician has mentioned, but she may be very open to it.  (She's a really open-minded doc.)

Also, is the Interoception book anything like the Social Thinking materials?  We went through both Zones of Regulation and We Thinkers, but neither seemed to register with him.  But the Interoception concept (as far as I read on the link you provided) certainly seems to make sense.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Ktgrok, please tell me more about what your son did in his work with birds of prey, because my son loves anything to do with birds of prey, also!  

And thank you for the reminder that anger may be depression directed outward.  We have wondered if my son may also be depressed.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No info on horses, but has your ped run blood work to check vitamin and supplement levels?  Teenagers are often very low on magnesium and others.  Also, undiagnosed food sensitivities/allergies can cause issues.  Ige blood work could help figure that.  I’d try those before going down a psych route.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, Quarter Note said:

@Ktgrok, please tell me more about what your son did in his work with birds of prey, because my son loves anything to do with birds of prey, also!  

And thank you for the reminder that anger may be depression directed outward.  We have wondered if my son may also be depressed.  

He volunteered at a rehabilitation center for birds of prey. Actually, he just started back there last week again, and this weekend went both Saturday to volunteer and then yesterday went with one of the main workers to help train one of the birds to hunt! 

Anyway, he'd feed them, prepare the food, clean the cages, just sit with the birds to socialize them, etc. It really helped him get out of his own head and focus on something else, but it also helped him have a sense of true accomplishment, of being needed. We all need that I think. He got to see that the bird was hungry, he fed it, and then it was satisfied. He DID that. It was immediate feedback that really meant something. versus finishing a worksheet so that later it could be graded so that in a few years maybe he'd get into college so that years after that he could get a job. All that was so abstract, so it wasn't satisfying. Seeing the bird happy was immediate and REAL. 

And the birds grew to like him, and they didn't care if his room was a mess or he forgot to do an assignment or if or when he was going to go to college or whatever. They just liked him for him, in the moment. 

Plus it got him out in the sunshine, doing manual labor, which is also a form of therapy I think. 

Oh, and he started on his own time researching the various species, learning more about their requirements, attributes, etc. He rediscovered learning for the sake of learning. That sparked something inside him as well. 

AND he then started working with the public who came to visit, and that helped with his confidence and people skills. 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Quarter Note said:

Hi @PeterPan.  Who would we go to for "running genetics"? This isn't something that his pediatrician has mentioned, but she may be very open to it.  (She's a really open-minded doc.)

Also, is the Interoception book anything like the Social Thinking materials?  We went through both Zones of Regulation and We Thinkers, but neither seemed to register with him.  But the Interoception concept (as far as I read on the link you provided) certainly seems to make sense.

Yes, if you did Zones of Reg and We Thinkers and it's not clicking, running through the Interoception curriculum from Kelly Mahler will get the lightbulbs to click. She now has an online training course, or it's worth the effort to go to one of her local presentations if you can find one. I've done training on all those (Zones, Social Thinking, Interoception) and used all of them, and Interoception is the foundation, the missing piece. As you build that, he'll probably come back in and start using the Zones he was taught and making the connections. It's a process, not fast, but yes it could be what you need. There's an active FB group for it btw.

For genetics, well I live near a big city and there's *one* doctor doing genetics where he tries to translate it into things for mental health. There might be more, but I only know of one. When hospitals do genetics, they're usually looking for seizures, big stuff. We're talking smaller fry, stuff that isn't on their radar, like MTHFR, VDR (vitamin D receptor), TPH2 (converts tryptophan to 5HTP, the precursor of serotonin and melatonin, hence the reason a kid might be anxious and a night owl), COMT (leads to aggression, irritability), etc. And you can run the genetics yourself through 23andme, download the raw data, run it through a couple engines, and boom you have the info yourself to make decisions.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 hours ago, matrips said:

No info on horses, but has your ped run blood work to check vitamin and supplement levels?  Teenagers are often very low on magnesium and others.  Also, undiagnosed food sensitivities/allergies can cause issues.  Ige blood work could help figure that.  I’d try those before going down a psych route.

 

Thank you, @matrips!  He has not had any blood work done, but I will mention it to his doctor at his next appointment (coming up soon).  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 hours ago, Ktgrok said:

He volunteered at a rehabilitation center for birds of prey. Actually, he just started back there last week again, and this weekend went both Saturday to volunteer and then yesterday went with one of the main workers to help train one of the birds to hunt! 

Anyway, he'd feed them, prepare the food, clean the cages, just sit with the birds to socialize them, etc. It really helped him get out of his own head and focus on something else, but it also helped him have a sense of true accomplishment, of being needed. We all need that I think. He got to see that the bird was hungry, he fed it, and then it was satisfied. He DID that. It was immediate feedback that really meant something. versus finishing a worksheet so that later it could be graded so that in a few years maybe he'd get into college so that years after that he could get a job. All that was so abstract, so it wasn't satisfying. Seeing the bird happy was immediate and REAL. 

And the birds grew to like him, and they didn't care if his room was a mess or he forgot to do an assignment or if or when he was going to go to college or whatever. They just liked him for him, in the moment. 

Plus it got him out in the sunshine, doing manual labor, which is also a form of therapy I think. 

Oh, and he started on his own time researching the various species, learning more about their requirements, attributes, etc. He rediscovered learning for the sake of learning. That sparked something inside him as well. 

AND he then started working with the public who came to visit, and that helped with his confidence and people skills. 

 

@Ktgrok, what a wonderful story about your son!  I can see my son wanting to do some volunteer work just like that - but it will have to be in a few years.  I suspect he's too young to volunteer for high-responsibility jobs at the wildlife center near us.  This does give me some other ideas, though....

I really appreciate you sharing his experience!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
21 hours ago, PeterPan said:

Yes, if you did Zones of Reg and We Thinkers and it's not clicking, running through the Interoception curriculum from Kelly Mahler will get the lightbulbs to click. She now has an online training course, or it's worth the effort to go to one of her local presentations if you can find one. I've done training on all those (Zones, Social Thinking, Interoception) and used all of them, and Interoception is the foundation, the missing piece. As you build that, he'll probably come back in and start using the Zones he was taught and making the connections. It's a process, not fast, but yes it could be what you need. There's an active FB group for it btw.

For genetics, well I live near a big city and there's *one* doctor doing genetics where he tries to translate it into things for mental health. There might be more, but I only know of one. When hospitals do genetics, they're usually looking for seizures, big stuff. We're talking smaller fry, stuff that isn't on their radar, like MTHFR, VDR (vitamin D receptor), TPH2 (converts tryptophan to 5HTP, the precursor of serotonin and melatonin, hence the reason a kid might be anxious and a night owl), COMT (leads to aggression, irritability), etc. And you can run the genetics yourself through 23andme, download the raw data, run it through a couple engines, and boom you have the info yourself to make decisions.

 

 

Thank you so much, @PeterPan!  It really helps to hear how Interlocution is the foundations for the Zones work.  Zones was a little frustrating for me, because while I got lots of good language from the book, my kids simply weren't ready to apply it.

I'll ask our pediatrician about the genetic stuff at our next appointment.  She'll probably know how to proceed.

Many thanks!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would think it could help. Most likely the therapy affects the vagus nerve. If you search vagus nerve and equine therapy, you might find something.

You might also want to see if your son has any of the genetic polymorphisms that would make it difficult for him to metabolize choline. Choline is needed to make the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. One of my sons and I have at least two. The remedy is to eat more choline. Liver and egg yolks are both high in choline so most days I eat at least two eggs. The rest I get from krill oil, about 6-10 pills of the Now brand. I do believe this made a difference in my son’s general anxiety but it took awhile. Six months maybe? (He is 22, btw.) Resources to look up online: Chris Masterjohn, selfdecode, and Linus Pauling Institute. Btw, there is no RDA for choline yet, so what you’ll see is an educated guess of AI, Adequate Intake.

Excess copper, which some experts are thinking is more problematic than formerly believed, could be a cause of your son’s problems as well. From what I’ve read, a little more zinc can help. If you do supplement, you might want to first track the nutrients in his food for a few days using something like Cronometer (free). Thorne’s zinc picolinate is considered a good supplement.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, BeachGal said:

genetic polymorphisms that would make it difficult for him to metabolize choline.

Got RS numbers or genes for this? I'm all ears here...

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, PeterPan said:

Got RS numbers or genes for this? I'm all ears here...

 

Selfdecode lists them toward the end of this linked article:

https://selfdecode.com/blog/article/choline-deficiency-pemt-44

More about choline:

https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/other-nutrients/choline

Chris Masterjohn has written about choline in a number of articles that are worth reading, even the older ones. Definitely check him out.

Btw, @PeterPan, you might also like reading some of Steve Horvath’s research on methyl groups. He’s at UCLA. Really interesting stuff about longevity that I bet you’d find interesting.

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, Quarter Note said:

 

@Ktgrok, what a wonderful story about your son!  I can see my son wanting to do some volunteer work just like that - but it will have to be in a few years.  I suspect he's too young to volunteer for high-responsibility jobs at the wildlife center near us.  This does give me some other ideas, though....

I really appreciate you sharing his experience!

You might be surprised. I think the place by me starts taking kids at 13, and they start off cleaning cages but work up based on ability and knowledge of the birds, not age. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Absolutely. My just turned 12 year old daughter was diagnosed with anxiety several years ago. We did (and still do) years of therapy. We do meds for her, which do help. Last year, she started riding horses - not in a therapeutic program, just in a homeschool class. We have been able to start going down on her meds and her Psychiatrist is so pleased that we are in talks to discontinue the meds at some point soon.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
23 hours ago, BeachGal said:

I would think it could help. Most likely the therapy affects the vagus nerve. If you search vagus nerve and equine therapy, you might find something.

You might also want to see if your son has any of the genetic polymorphisms that would make it difficult for him to metabolize choline. Choline is needed to make the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. One of my sons and I have at least two. The remedy is to eat more choline. Liver and egg yolks are both high in choline so most days I eat at least two eggs. The rest I get from krill oil, about 6-10 pills of the Now brand. I do believe this made a difference in my son’s general anxiety but it took awhile. Six months maybe? (He is 22, btw.) Resources to look up online: Chris Masterjohn, selfdecode, and Linus Pauling Institute. Btw, there is no RDA for choline yet, so what you’ll see is an educated guess of AI, Adequate Intake.

Excess copper, which some experts are thinking is more problematic than formerly believed, could be a cause of your son’s problems as well. From what I’ve read, a little more zinc can help. If you do supplement, you might want to first track the nutrients in his food for a few days using something like Cronometer (free). Thorne’s zinc picolinate is considered a good supplement.

Thank you, @BeachGal! I will definitely look into this and read the links you posted.  This will be another question for my son's pediatrician.  (Appointment coming up soon.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, Ktgrok said:

You might be surprised. I think the place by me starts taking kids at 13, and they start off cleaning cages but work up based on ability and knowledge of the birds, not age. 

I checked and unfortunately, the wildlife center nearest us has an age limit of 18.  But, there's nothing wrong with us hanging out at the raptor cages so often that the staff gets to know us.  Many thanks for planting this idea in my head!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, scbusf said:

Absolutely. My just turned 12 year old daughter was diagnosed with anxiety several years ago. We did (and still do) years of therapy. We do meds for her, which do help. Last year, she started riding horses - not in a therapeutic program, just in a homeschool class. We have been able to start going down on her meds and her Psychiatrist is so pleased that we are in talks to discontinue the meds at some point soon.

@scbusf, thank you very much for sharing your daughter's experience.  This gives me hope!  Best wishes to your daughter and you.  I hope that she continues to improve.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

yes - it's bonding with an animal.

the local women's prison have a program where women are training therapy dogs - it's been a win-win-win.   the women are able to calm their anger by interacting with the dogs, learn a useful skill they can use when they're out, and the dogs go to people who need one.

horseback riding, and dogs (even cats) have been very recommended for kids on the spectrum, and those with ptsd. (among other things.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, Quarter Note said:

Thank you, @BeachGal! I will definitely look into this and read the links you posted.  This will be another question for my son's pediatrician.  (Appointment coming up soon.)

 

Good luck, Quarter Note!

The importance of choline is just beginning to be understood but it is so important that prenatal vitamins now have it and food labels will include it. Most people get insufficient amounts, especially vegans and vegetarians. Vilifying egg yolks and liver, which are excellent sources of choline, is one of those health proclamations that will likely be seen as horribly bad, especially since choline is extremely important in preventing dementia. IOW, insufficient choline is likely going to be a reason for increasing rates of dementia later in life. It is also helpful with mood and anxiety which is why my 22 year old takes it (general anxiety disorder). Anyway, I’ll link you another article:

https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/1117p36.shtml

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...