Next time you want to help your child out with their development, you should consider this out-of-the-book activity. Books and private tutors are great, but how about horse riding?
Scientists from the Tokyo University of Agriculture have found that horse riding can greatly help to improve cognitive ability in children. In their study, they discovered that this activity can contribute to memory, learning and problem solving.
In the experiment they made, 34 boys and 72 girls (at the age of 10-12) were divided into three groups (horse riding, walking and resting). Throughout the experiment, these children performed go/no-go tasks and solved arithmetic problems.
The Go/No-Go task is related to the working memory capacity and has been asserted to measure three important concepts:
- The first is inhibition, a “process by which a response or thought is suppressed”
- The second is behavioral inhibition (cognitive), which is “inhibition of actions”
- The third is response inhibition, or “the suppression of actions that are inappropriate in a given context and that interfere with goal-driven behavior”.
Both tasks (go/no-go and arithmetic) have a lot to do with the working memory capacity, learning and problem solving.
The fascinating find was that the children who were involved in the horse riding activity had greatly improved results in these tasks.
The study revealed that the vibrations produced by the horses can stimulate the sympathetic nervous system (also known as the autonomic nervous system). This part of the brain activates what is often termed as the fight or flight response.
Although it controls involuntary functions (such as heartbeat, breathing and digestion), new studies have revealed that this system also contributes greatly to cognitive abilities.
While riding on a half-breed or a pony contributed to the ability to perform the go/no-go task and arithmetic, the study also revealed that the Kiso breed might as well provide a healing effect through the parasympathetic activity.
This discovery is another good reason to take your child horse riding. The fun is rewarding by itself and the effects can be life-changing.