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Tours hospital uses horses as therapy for children

Children with learning difficulties in Tours are getting the chance to work with horses as part of their treatment and therapy.

Young people with developmental issues - some of which are as young as five - have been working with smaller-sized horses that are specially trained to help the children communicate better and become less anxious or stressed, as part of the initiative at the paediatric psychiatry unit at the CHRU in Tours, reports French newspaper Le Monde.

Horse trainers supervise the growing connections between the horses and children, the latter of which get to touch the horses, play with and brush their manes, and even mount them and ride them if appropriate.

Working with the horses is said to help improve neuro-developmental links in the children’s brains, and in doing so, boost their social interaction, coordination, communication issues, and behavioural problems.

The CHRU selects three children per year who would benefit most from the “equitherapy” scheme - usually those who struggle the most with behaviour and communication from an early age - and is able to follow the children’s interaction with the animals.

“We choose children who are in their first year of school, for whom communication and behaviour are starting to cause problems,” says Joëlle Malvy, paediatric psychiatrist at the hospital.

Speaking about one boy with autistic tendencies, doctor Patrice Delavous explains: “In just three sessions, his progression has been spectacular. Before, he couldn’t stand waiting around [but now he is calm].”

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