Equine-Assisted Activities for Adolescents: Ethogram-based behavioral analysis of persistence during horse-related tasks and communication patterns with the horse

Hilde Hauge1, Ingela L. Kvalem2, Ingeborg Pedersen & Bjarne O. Braastad3

1Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås
2University of Oslo
3Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås

Earlier studies have indicated that learning to handle a horse through tasks and activities can lead to a feeling of mastery which may have an impact on self-efficacy. The aim of this study was to examine how adolescents conducted horse-related tasks presented to them in an intervention in a farm environment, and whether there was a change during the intervention in persistence on tasks with the horse. Furthermore, we wanted to examine the behavior of the adolescents towards the horse and the response from the horse. Each participant was given an intervention once a week for approximately 16 weeks consisting of tasks with the horse, riding, grooming, and stable work. The sample presented in this study consisted of 29 participants who were successfully video-recorded in the beginning and at the end of the intervention. Petting the horse was the most frequent way of initiating contact with the horse, and the distributions of contact behaviors were the same at both time spots. The response of the horse was mainly neutral or positive. When participants did not succeed at their first attempt when trying to solve a horse-related task or an exercise during riding, their subsequent behavior was recorded as either trying again or not trying again. Early in the intervention, these two options were chosen with about the same frequency, while at the end of the intervention trying again was chosen significantly more often than not trying again. This was operationalized as an increase in persistence when having difficulties in solving tasks with the horse. The increased persistence late in the intervention in retrying tasks may indicate that the adolescents developed a feeling of mastery, which is an important factor in development of self-efficacy

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Keywords: adolescents, equine-assisted activities, horses, intervention, mastery of task
Posted in 2013, Volume 1, No. 2