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  • Author or Editor: Katharine R. Smith x
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Objective—To determine whether therapeutic riding resulted in higher levels of stress or frustration for horses than did recreational riding and whether therapeutic riding with at-risk individuals was more stressful for the horses than was therapeutic riding with individuals with physical or emotional handicaps.

Design—Observational study.

Animals—14 horses in a therapeutic riding program.

Procedure—An ethogram of equine behaviors was created, and horses were observed while ridden by 5 groups of riders (recreational riders, physically handicapped riders, psychologically handicapped riders, atrisk children, and special education children). Number of stress-related behaviors (ears pinned back, head raised, head turned, head tossed, head shaken, head down, and defecation) was compared among groups.

Results—No significant differences in mean number of stress-related behaviors were found when horses were ridden by recreational riders, physically handicapped riders, psychologically handicapped riders, or special education children. However, mean number of stress-related behaviors was significantly higher when horses were ridden by the at-risk children.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggest that for horses in a therapeutic riding program, being ridden by physically or psychologically handicapped individuals is no more stressful for the horses than is being ridden in the same setting by recreational riders. However, at-risk children caused more stress to the horses, suggesting that the time horses are ridden by at-risk children should be limited both daily and weekly.

Full access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association


Objective—To determine the effects of a therapeutic riding program on psychosocial measurements among children considered at risk for poor performance or failure in school or life and among children in special education programs.

Design—Observational study.

Population—17 at-risk children (6 boys and 11 girls) and 14 special education children (7 boys and 7 girls).

Procedure—For the at-risk children, anger, anxiety, perceived self-competence, and physical coordination were assessed. For the special education children, anger and cheerfulness were measured, and the children's and their mothers' perceptions of the children's behavior were assessed. Measurements were made before and after an 8-session therapeutic riding program.

Results—For boys enrolled in the special education program, anger was significantly decreased after completion of the riding program. The boys' mothers also perceived significant improvements in their children's behavior after completion of the program.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggest that an 8-session therapeutic riding program can significantly decrease anger in adolescent boys in a special education program and positively affect their mothers' perception of the boys' behavior.

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association


Although low plasma taurine concentrations have been associated with congestive cardiomyopathy in cats, the cause of taurine depletion in cats consuming adequate quantities of taurine is unknown. Taurine depletion and cardiovascular disease (cardiomyopathy and thromboembolism) developed unexpectedly in 3 of 6 healthy adult cats during a potassium-depletion study. Plasma taurine concentration decreased significantly (P < 0.05) and rapidly over an 8-week period (from 98 to 36 nmol/ml) in 6 cats that consumed a potassium-deficient diet (0.20% potassium, dry matter basis) that was acidified with 0.8% ammonium chloride, despite containing dietary taurine concentrations (0.12% dry matter basis) in excess of amounts currently recommended. Taurine concentrations were significantly lower in cats fed the acidified diet than in 6 cats fed a potassium-deficient diet that was not acidified (36 nmol/ml vs 75 nmol/ml) after 8 weeks. In addition, plasma taurine concentrations did not decrease over a 6-month period in 8 cats that were fed a potassium-replete diet with acidifier. Plasma taurine concentrations were lowest in 3 cats that died of cardiovascular disease in the group receiving potassium-deficient, acidified diets. These data indicated an association between taurine and potassium balance in cats and suggested that development of taurine depletion and cardiovascular disease may be linked to concurrent potassium depletion.

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in American Journal of Veterinary Research