Similarities Between Horses and Autistics

I. Stress behaviors
  A. Autistic: rocking.  Horse: weaving, circling
  B. Autistic: perseverations, stims.  Horse:  cribbing, windsucking

  C. Autistic: head banging, rubbing, punching.  Horse:  stall
kicking, tail rubbing (not caused by parasites, flies, etc.).

  D. Autistics:  Tourettes-like tics.  Horses:  tic-like head
tossing, stamping, tic-like biting at self.

II. Number of clues needed before reacting (or "living in a constant state
of fear").

  A. Prey animals (horses/cows) must respond to a single clue if
they are to survive.

  B. Waiting for a set of clues in the wild would not be conducive
to survival.

  C. Predators need a series of clues to be able to 'plan' their
means of survival.

  D. Baby's brains start off responding to a single clue, but in
humans (and predators) the brain matures into needing a
complex set of clues to react.

  E. Autistic brains do not mature into needing a complex set of
clues to react, but continue to rely on a single, or limited
set of clues.
III. Hyper and Hypo Sensitivity

  A. Autistic: hypersensitivity to certain types of clothing
material, tags in clothing, etc.; being touched lightly.
Horses: skin flinching when insects land on them; being
touched lightly.

  B. Autistic: hyposensitivity to painful injuries.  Horses: not
reacting to rider's leg  pressure, kicks or even the crop.

IV. Withdrawal
  A. Autistic: seeming to be in another world; allowing hands,
arms, legs to be positioned without seeming to notice.
Horses: appearing to be dozing although their eyes are open;
allowing their feet to be picked up and/or their legs to be
moved without seeming to notice.

  B. Autistic:  allowing themselves to be led while in the
withdrawal state.
     Horses:  allowing themselves to be led while in the
dozing-with-eyes-open state.

V. Sensory Overload and Shutdown

  A. Autistic: becoming frozen in place when the senses become
overloaded and shutdown.  Horses: becoming frozen in place
when the senses become overloaded and shutdown, as when being
forced to enter a trailer or other situation which causes
extreme fear.

VI. Social Relations

  A. Autistics: do not become attached to other people in a normal
     Horses: even though a herd animal and most comfortable when
part of a herd, horses graze apart from each other, stand
apart from each other while resting and engage in a limited
amount of touching/grooming of each other. 

  B. Autistic:  become stressed in crowds and even small groups
which are too close together.  Horses:  become stressed when
the herd or even a small group are put in an encloser that
doesn't allow their normal 'personal space' zone.

VII Trot/Jog

  A. Autistic: many low functioning autistics (and other
developmentally disabled people) have a posture when moving
where the arms are drawn up so that the elbows point forward,
the wrists are cocked at a downward angle, and the back is
arched so that the butt sticks out. 

  B. This looks similar to the horses trot - see enclosed picture
of a horse at the trot.
  C. The person moves his/her arms and legs in the same order as
the horses'four legs at the trot/jog.

  D. Examples of this can be seen on tapes of Special Olympics
track races.

VIII Canter/Lope

  A. Autistic:  many low functioning autistics (and other
developmetally disabled people) run one-sided, or on a

  B. Horses: canter/lope while on a left or right 'lead'.

  C. The person moves his/her arms and legs in the same order as
the horses' four legs at the canter/lope.

  D. There may be examples of this type of running on tapes of
Special Olympic track races.  I didn't see this type of
running on the tapes I saw, but observed this at a Special
Olympics event I attended.

IX. Ears (Vestibular Stimulation)

  A. Autistic: vestibular stimulation in the form or spinning,
deep pressure, etc. can be used to calm the person. 

  B. Horse: gently pulling and/or moving the ears in a circular
motion can be used to give relief to a horse having a mild
colic. It can also be used to calm a horse which is becoming

X. Not aware of body parts/Sensory Integration

  A. Autistic: those who do not seem to be aware of where their
body is in  relation to their surroundings benefit from
sensory intergration.

  B. Horses:  Linda Tellington-Jones speaks about horses not being
aware of where their bodies are in relation to their
surroundings and her techniques closely resemble sensory

XI. B Vitamins

  A. Autistic:  some people seem to become calmer and have fewer
autistic behaviors when taking B vitamins.

  B. In 7 out of 13 over the-counter calmative products available
for horses (last year) Thiamine (B-1) and/or 'B-vitamin
complex' was the major or only ingredient.  While
veterinarians remain skeptical about their usefulness, many
horse owners swear that they work for their horses.

XII. Gluten
  A. Autistic:  some autistics seem to have fewer autistic
behaviors when put on a gluten-free diet.

  B. Horses:  hot-blooded horses such as Thoroughbreds and
Arabians used for racing, and other high energy sports, are
fed larger amounts of grain, and an anecdotal connection has
been made for years between that and an increase in negative
behaviors in some of these horses.


I. Anosognosia

  A.  Anosognosia seen in right-sided stroke patients results in
the patient not recognizeing parts of their body as
belonging to them or have any feeling in that limb.
                    They are often offended by the limb that they don't
recognize as their own; one man tried to throw his own leg
off the bed because he said it was not his.
  B.  Pouring cold water into the left ear of these patients
stimulated the vestibular system and reawkened the 'anomaly
detector', allowing the patient to recognize the limb as
belonging to them.

  C.  Could the same type of thing be going on with the extremely
self-injurious autistic?  Do they suffer recurring bouts of

  D. If this is what is happening could pouring cold water into
the left ear be a more humane way of stopping this behavior
than the electric shock devices that are used at BRI?