Equestrian Researchers Secure $75,000 Grant to Study Equine-Assisted Services’ Impact

The Horses and Humans Research Foundation called for proposals in May 2023 for a research grant from equestrian associations. It was the start of a competitive selection process as many associations from all corners of the world took part. Ultimately, the best proposal for equine-assisted therapy studies came from a country famous for hosting the Chantilly Prix de Diane.

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France took away the $75,000 grant for their groundbreaking research proposal on equine-assisted therapy studies. The proposal was unique in itself, but a famous French doctor specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation took it one step further.

Dr. Manuel Gaviria elevates equestrian research project


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Dr. Manuel Gaviria has years of experience working with the rehabilitation of patients at the Institut des Neurosciences de Montpellier. He was the best person to chair the HHRF-funded study. According to horsetalk.co.nz, the subject of the research would be “Neurological rehabilitation through hippotherapy on the neurofunctional sequels of a brain stroke: (I) Effect on the functional independence, sensorimotor and cognitive capacities, and quality of life of the patients (II) Effect on quality of life of the caregivers”. A team of expert researchers will conduct experiments during a 22-week period involving patients with moderate to severe disabilities.

The scope of the study has been purposefully kept limited to disabilities caused by stroke. The Equestrian world believes that a person at risk of a stroke can prevent or at least reduce the severity of the stroke by participating in equine-assisted therapy. Now, the scientists are looking for credible evidence to support this claim. They are also exploring if hippotherapy can make the patients more independent. However, that is not all, as Dr. Manuel Gaviria has brought the well-being of the caregivers into the purview of the study.

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Enhancing caregiver well-being in equine-assisted therapy study

Life gets hard for the individual suddenly losing their independence due to a stroke, but it also affects their caregivers. Dr. Gaviria wants this intervention to have a positive effect on the life of the latter, too. Thus, while assessing the functional independence, motor status, gait performance, and postural balance of the patients, he will also examine the reduction in the caregiver’s burden. This is truly a novel approach that would benefit both the equestrian and medicine worlds.

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The proposed study will revolve around a randomized clinical trial. Here, the effectiveness of equine-assisted therapy will be set against conventional outpatient rehabilitation programs. The Equiphoria Institute of Neurorehabilitation and Hippotherapy in La Canourgue received the grant and will be the site of the research. The equestrian facility’s director, Helene Viruega, said, “It serves as a validation of our joint mission and effort to prove the powerful impact of EAT worldwide. Thank you to HHRF for this recognition and significant financial support”. Her statement has shed light on the bond within the equestrian community that transcends all borders and cultural barriers.

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