There’s lots of proof that therapy horses have a positive impact on humans, but what is the impact of these relationships on the therapy horse?
That is a burning question for Dr. Katrina Merkies, a professor of animal bioscience at the University of Guelph, and thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Horses and Humans Research Foundation, it’s a question she’ll be able to investigate.
“There’s a belief that somehow the horse bonds with the human and can intuit what the human needs,” Merkies said in a phone interview. “That’s nice to believe and we want it to be true. But how do we know this? Can we determine if the horse responds to the movements or the emotional needs? If we can, it could lay the ground work for other studies.”
Therapy horses are used to help people with a variety of afflictions, from physical disabilities, to developmental disabilities, to people with emotional scars.
Merkies will be doing her study at Sunrise Therapeutic Riding & Learning Centre, a facility just outside Guelph that uses horses to help children and adults with special needs.