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Research Shows That Equine-Facilitated Learning Reduces Stress In Older Adults

We live in a world where stress has become an epidemic that is costing companies hundreds of millions of dollars. Stress is typically the cause of heart disease which is still the number one killer. Numerous methods have laid claim to having the ability to reduce stress. And now, we can add Equine Facilitated Learning as a method that has been shown in ongoing research to reduce stress in older adults.

The actual research took place at Ann Alden’s Borderlands Ranch in Sonoita, Arizona from October – November 2014. The research is now going into its 4th phase and continues to look at how adults 55+ respond to Equine-Facilitated Learning (EFL). I was privileged to be part of the staff during the 2014 phases of the research.

The research seeks to determine scientifically something that we facilitators have observed but couldn’t prove for years. The objective of the first stages was to prove that EFL could improve heart rate variability (HRV), self-esteem and immune function.

Behavioral And Health Benefits

During the many years I’ve worked in this profession, I have witnessed what can only be described as miraculous behavioral changes in children and adults of all ages. But, now we know there are also actual health benefits. It is my hope that the results of this research will give others who may have been skeptical permission to experience the benefits. Perhaps the resistance to participating in Equine Facilitated Learning will be removed or at the very least lowered.

HRV Indicates How The Body Handles Stress

If you don’t know the difference between a high and low HRV, let me explain. Basically, high is good and low is bad. What variability refers to is your heart beat’s ability to shift throughout the day. Heart rate variability –  or how efficiently the body can change heart rate depending on activity, is typically an indicator of how well your body can handle stress. Also, a lower HRV is associated with heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.

According to the study, “Human heart and respiration rates as well as HRV (SDRR) increased significantly during interactions with horses and humans compared to baseline. Human self-esteem increased during interactions with horses and humans.” Ultimately, the final result states, “ These findings mostly support our hypothesis and suggest that engaging with horses benefits humans, indicating an enlivened state without stress.” https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/paij/vol1/iss1/5

Explore The Benefits Of EFL

Come join us if you would like to further explore how being around horses during EFL can help reduce stress, and or create more effective teams and leaders. Our team at Medicine Horse Ranch designs custom equine-guided experiential programs for specific groups, individuals, businesses and organizations around any number of relevant issues and/or topics.