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'Horsing around' reduces stress hormones in youth
Date:4/24/2014

PULLMAN, Wash. New research from Washington State University reveals how youth who work with horses experience a substantial reduction in stress and the evidence lies in kids' saliva.

The results are published in the American Psychological Association's Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin this month.

Pendry-80"We were coming at this from a prevention perspective," said Patricia Pendry, a developmental psychologist at WSU who studies how stress "gets under the skin" and the effects of prevention programs on human development. "We are especially interested in optimizing healthy stress hormone production in young adolescents, because we know from other research that healthy stress hormone patterns may protect against the development of physical and mental health problems."

NIH grant to apply hard science

Her work is the first evidence-based research within the field of human-equine interaction to measure a change in participants' levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

"The beauty of studying stress hormones is that they can be sampled quite noninvasively and conveniently by sampling saliva in naturalistic settings as individuals go about their regular day," Pendry said.

While human-animal interaction programs with horses, dogs, cats and other companion animals have been credited with improving social competence, self-esteem and behavior in children, scientifically valid research to support these claims and an understanding of the underlying mechanism for why people report a positive experience in these programs has been limited.

Three years ago, the National Institutes of Health began asking researchers to tackle big questions about the effects of human-animal interaction on child development. With the support of a $100,000 NIH grant, Pendry led a research project to engage students in grades 5-8 in a 12-week equine facilitated learning program in Pullman, Wash.

She approached the coordina
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Contact: Patricia Pendry
ppendry@wsu.edu
509-335-8365
Washington State University
Source:Eurekalert

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