Therapeutic horseback riding for at-risk adolescents in residential care

Shlomit Weiss-Dagan, Nofar Naim-Levi, Dorit Brafman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Over the past two decades, a large body of research has focused on the contribution of equine-assisted therapies to positive psychological changes in at-risk adolescents. The current study aimed to explore the subjective experiences of therapeutic horseback riding (THR, a type of equine-assisted therapy) among at-risk adolescents and examine how they describe the psychological benefits and the mechanisms of change of a THR intervention. Methods: This qualitative study focused on at-risk adolescents living in residential care. In-depth interviews were conducted with 19 adolescents. Results: Thematic analysis revealed three themes: (a) participants’ presentation, (b) the benefits of riding as a mechanism of change in the THR intervention, and (c) the benefits of the relationship with the horse as a mechanism of change in the THR intervention. Conclusions: The results of this study emphasize that the riding process and the relationship with the horse are the core mechanisms of THR interventions for at-risk adolescents and provide various psychological, behavioral, and relational benefits. Self-determination theory (SDT) is a relevant framework through which to explore at-risk adolescents’ subjective experiences of THR intervention and reveal its benefits for them.

Original languageEnglish
Article number90
JournalChild and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • At-risk adolescents
  • Autonomy
  • Self-determination theory
  • Sense of competence
  • Therapeutic horseback riding


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