Are Your Kids Feeling Stressed? Take Them To The Barn!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016 - 8:30am
by Amanda Morris

Between the controversial common core school work, after school activities and endless cases of peer pressure, the life of a kid seems harder than ever. I can remember spending nights at home, working through math problems in tears while my parents sat next to me, defeated and unsure how they could help. It seems silly to talk about kids being stressed. How could they be stressed? They don’t have bills, they don’t have to find a job, they don’t have to make any big life decisions at all, so what do they have to be stressed about? But the truth is, kids feel pressures from all around them, and a new study suggests that horses might be the perfect way to combat that stress.

Patricia Pendry, a Washington State University Psychologist, held a randomly controlled study of 130 students, ages 10-15. Pendry’s study found that 5th Graders-8th Graders who participated in a series of 90-minute equine learning sessions had significantly lower cortisol levels than those students who did not participate. Cortisol is the name of the hormone our body releases in response to stress.

Katy Muldoon of The Oregonian wrote that controlling stress during the teen years is important. Not only is it a critical time for brain development but high stress during adolescence also has been linked to mental-health and behavioral problems.

All of the students, those who participated and those who didn’t, provided saliva samples over a two-day period before and after the study was conducted. They spit into vials first thing in the morning, once in the afternoon and right before they went to bed. Pendry tested the samples for cortisol levels, and the results showed that the students who experienced time with the horses had lower afternoon cortisol levels and lower total cortisol concentrations during their awake hours.

Pendry said the study adds some scientific significance to anecdotal claims that human-animal education programs have calming benefits. Pendry said she hopes the study might lead to alternative after-school programs pairing young people with animals.

So the next time your teen is stressing, even if it’s about something small, consider building some barn time into your daily routine. Your horses will thank you, and so will your kids!

Source: OregonLive.com, Katy Muldoon