Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Institutional Review Board Questions

May 27, 2009

The following email arrived in our office recently:

One of the questions on your grant application form asks if the project is IRB (Institutional Review Board) approved. I have a few questions about this:

    1) Our intended research project seeks to simply measure progress and outcome variables between EAP and office-based therapy. The ONLY manipulation/intrusion that is experienced by the clients is filling out measures when asked (done in between sessions) and the fact that they will be randomly assigned to either the EAP or the office-based therapy group. Other than this, therapy proceeds as usual. Having said this, the anticipated risk to participants is nominal. Considering this, would HHRF still require our project to be IRB approved? (e.g. does HHRF require all proposed projects to be IRB approved?)

    2) If HHRF does indeed require IRB approval, then I’m wondering about the timing of the approval. Several sections of the IRB initial review submission form require information about the sponsor of the research. If our project were to be approved, that sponsor would of course be HHRF. However, unless and until our research project is approved by HHRF, I cannot provide the IRB this information. As incomplete IRB forms are not accepted, this means that I cannot submit the forms, and therefore obtain approval, until after HHRF sponsorship is confirmed. What is procedure for this?

Our answers to this researcher’s questions, and to others who are wondering:

1) This group should have the research approved by the IRB, and this should be very straightforward since, as they’ve noted, there is minimal intervention. Any research that requires subjects to provide information – especially health information – that can be linked to them should be approved. Patient privacy rules and release of information are very sensitive areas, and the IRB should be aware of this research. If they don’t have a local IRB, Western IRB would likely approve this in about a month or less from time of submission.

2) Despite funding coming from HHRF, the group conducting the research is the Sponsor. Thus, this group could submit immediately. If, however, the research will not be performed without HHRF funding, we suggest they wait to submit to the IRB until they hear if they are awarded a grant. We would be satisfied, and give a good review score for the IRB portion, if they had identified an IRB that they plan to submit to and have the application prepared.

-KC Henry, HHRF ED


New York Times Article – April 15, 2009

April 16, 2009

The New York Times Article “The Horse Boy”

The New York Times published an article on April 15 called “The Horse Boy”. The beginning of the article reads:

When Rupert Isaacson decided to take his autistic son, Rowan, on a trip to Mongolia to ride horses and seek the help of shamans two years ago, he had a gut instinct that the adventure would have a healing effect on the boy. Mr. Isaacson’s instinct was rewarded after the trip, when some of Rowan’s worst behavioral issues, including wild temper tantrums, all but disappeared.

Read the rest of the article here:
There is also lively discussion happening on a New York Times blog page, where autism experts and readers are invited to chime in,

HHRF’s entry on that page, in response to the article and the various posts:

This article highlights the certain need for the translation of anecdotal evidence of the impact of horses on humans (decades-worth of stories to add to the ones here!) to real substantiation. The Horses and Humans Research Foundation exists for this purpose.

One of our currently funded projects is researching “the effects of horses on the socialization and behavior of children with autism.” Other previously funded projects have looked at the impact of equine-facilitated hippotherapy on children with cerebral palsy.

Commentary here illustrates many of the challenges to making equine-assisted activities accessible to children like Rowan: a lack of available insurance reimbursements, skepticism from the rehabilitation and medical fields, and the lack of a model of best practice. All of these challenges can be overcome by supporting high-level research.

Also look for a Letter to the Editor from HHRF Founder and President Molly Sweeney to be published in the coming week.


Application Questions

January 19, 2009

A potential applicant recently asked me what qualifies as a research question that will have broad significance to equine assisted activities and therapies, as our application checklist states.

First, please keep in mind that this is one of fifteen different items on the checklist that our scientific reviewers and board look at.  They are looking, first and foremost, for rigorous scientific research that is likely to be published in a peer reviewed journal. So, that being said, the research questions must be significant to both a specific scientific community AND to our EAA/T field.

The most pressing two areas of significance for the EAA/T field we have identified are: 1) Helping guide instructors and therapists in common areas of practice and decision-making (e.g. how long should a session be, how many weeks should a student ride, are there certain activities that that have greater impact on achieving goals?) or 2) Validating to insurance companies, medical industry, supporters and others  that EAA/T is effective.

Please understand  that we do not weigh therapeutic riding, hippotherapy, equine-facilitated mental health, education-based programs or any other areas as more important than another. The board has not chosen to do a call for proposals related to any  specific area or question at this time.

We do hope, in the future, to collaborate with other interest groups – such as autism, veterans, multiple sclerosis, eating disorders who will jointly sponsor specific calls for proposals related to their missions and co-sponsor the awarded funds.  Until then our consideration for large-impact research remains very broad.

KC Henry

Executive Director

Terms and Definitions

November 25, 2008

I received a recent email – pointing out a terminology blunder – a real faux pas in this EAA/T industry.  We have all followed the ongoing terminology debates – most of us have tired of them.  But I must admit this complaint was well placed. 

In a press release we had mixed terms.  Basic ones, at that.

From a friend setting us straight: 

In reading the news release on the list serve about the new grants through HHRF, there is a summary of Tim’s work. (12th paragraph) In the description, it is stated that the children had 12 weeks of “therapeutic horseback riding” and then the next statement says, the study provided strong evidence that “hippotherapy”….Is there any way to proofread material to ensure that these two terms are used clearly, appropriately and not interchangeably?  TR is not hippotherapy! (I know I’m preaching to the choir, but…) I just presented at NARHA conference about the confusion (yet again) and to have a highly visible organization like HHRF get it mixed up is very frustrating.

Therapeutic Riding and Hippotherapy

Therapeutic Riding – Mounted activities including traditional riding disciplines or adaptive riding activities conducted by a NARHA certified instructor.

Hippotherapy – Physical, occupational or speech therapy treatment strategy that utilizes equine movement. This strategy is used as part of an integrated treatment program to achieve functional outcomes.

At the NARHA conference I facilitated a research forum. One of our presenters –Karolina Przewloka, from Poland, pointed out early that her terminology was quite different from NARHA’s – that “hippotherpy” in her study refers to all forms of equine assisted activities… and so the confusion moves forward as we cross the international boundaries that HHRF strives to cover.

For now, HHRF has posted definitions on our web site that we ask applicants to use.  We truly regret the inconvenience to our international applicants who have to “re-define” their vocabulary during their application process.  We know our scientific reviewers need common-terminology ground, and we have not yet come up with a better solution.

In the mean time – thanks for reading our press releases – and thanks for your professional terminology reminders – we will make it a point to adhere to HHRF’s terminology guide in our own publications.

If you have any questions or thoughts, please email me or post comments here on the blog.

-KC Henry


HHRF Executive Director




NARHA Conference Experience

November 12, 2008


Attending the NARHA conference in Hartford Ct from Oct. 29 to Nov. 1 was, as always, an inspiring experience – I love being around so many folks who are exceptionally dedicated to EAA/T.

My favorite part was the chance to talk to the multitude of people – to hear what is going on in the small and large programs and in the industry as whole.

It strikes me that the diversity of this industry has increased dramatically.  There are so many exciting variations to EAA/T now! Including not only my personal background in recreational riding for people with disabilities, but also a strong and professional focus in areas of learning/education, corporate-team building (sample), hippotherapy, mental health, and many more.   The large number of people who expressed interest and support of EAA/T research was especially heartening to me!

Kathy Alm and Pat Mullins

Kathy Alm, NARHA President-elect and current V.P., standing with Pat Mullins, HHRF Advisory Council member, holding his 2008 NARHA James Brady Award.

HHRF board members present – Molly Sweeney, Octavia Brown, Michael Kaufmann and Judy Lightfoot – also networked and enjoyed the conference experience.  We made a concerted effort to take time to share and learn from board members and executive directors of every national and international association that we could connect with.  These meetings included officers/representatives from EFMHA, AHA, NARHA and FRDI.  We discussed many aspects of research and specifically addressed future collaborative possibilities and needs related to developing research that will further the industry.  We were really excited to be discussing partnering on an international basis – and we are looking forward to talking to the many other national and international associations who may also interested. 

We hope to establish an international research symposium in the not too distant future to further our collaborative efforts in these areas. 


We’d love to hear from people with ideas and interests in this direction.


Please e-mail me to share ideas, or leave comments on the blog!


KC Henry

HHRF Executive Director


Prove or Substantiate

October 22, 2008

In the Summer 2008 edition of the HHRF Newsletter, we printed this headline: Benefits of Hippotherapy Proven By Washington University Research Team.  

This headline provoked responses such as this:


When I first read the subject line, the social scientist in me winced 
at the word “proven” – it goes against all my training in research 
methods to claim proof of anything in the laboratory of life. If that 
was the first reaction of someone who believes in & supports your work 
wholeheartedly, what would be the reaction of skeptics?


Thank you – thank you!  I promise this poorly placed word came from the exuberance of the HHRF administrative staff (yes – that would include me – a self proclaimed administrator-NON researcher) – NOT from any of our scientific committee members.  I am sure they, too, winced upon reading that word!  Thank you for your gentle reminder.  Even before your reminder we had other similar suggestions  – and have hopefully upgraded our entire website to better words – like “validate” – I don’t know how I let this headline slip by!


                                                      KC Henry – Executive Director 



Partnering with Horses in the Research

October 17, 2008

Recently we were sent this comment regarding the Washington University research funded by HHRF: 

The design did not include equines but rather a proxy. My thought would be to replicate the study including horses, knowing full well the difficulties inherent in such work.

One of the most unique aspects of their research is that the students were tested in the beginning and the end on a mechanical horse.  As the mechanical horse simulated a three dimensional movement the students postural response was captured by multiple video cameras that analyzed the reactions through computer technology.
In between the two assessments (the mechanical horse gave an identical “ride” for both assessments – something we can NOT duplicate in the ring on a live horse) – each student participated in 12 hippotherapy sessions on real horses at various programs.  
Those variables did NOT matter because the end results were so clear –  the students impressively increased head and trunk stability.  And these improvements are statistically validated.  
To read the results of the Washington University study, click here.