Is your child lacking in mental skills? Take him or her for horse riding classes as it may lead to improved cognitive skills such as enhanced learning, memory and problem-solving, researchers suggest.
A new study showed that the effects of vibrations produced by horses during horse riding leads to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which may improve learning in children.
Horse steps produce three-dimensional accelerations and the movement of the horse's pelvis may provide motor and sensory inputs to the human body.
"Some of the differences among the rider's performances might be due to these accelerations," said Mitsuaki Ohta, Professor at Tokyo University in Japan.
"We wanted to look into these effects because previous studies have demonstrated the benefits of horseback riding with respect to enhancing physical health and the mental effects, but few studies have addressed the effects of horseback riding on children and the mechanisms underlying how riding affects humans," Ohta explained.
The findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health, showed that riding on some horses greatly improved the ability of children to perform behavioural tasks and could improved their cognitive abilities.
These are brain-based skills of which an improvement can lead to enhanced learning, memory and problem-solving, the researchers said.
For the study, the team examined the effects of horseback riding on the performance of children by having them complete simple tests directly before and after horse riding, while measuring the children's heart rate in response to movements created by the horses.
The behavioural reactions of the children were tested using a 'Go/No-go' test, which assesses cognitive response using fast computerised questions.
The test determined the children's ability to appropriately respond in a situation, by either performing an action or demonstrating self-control.