Few empirical studies have been conducted in order to scientifically measure the benefits of using animals with individuals suffering from neurological disorders, or traumatic brain injuries, with or without the inclusion of chronic pain. This study looked at the benefit of using horses in the therapeutic setting, by measuring the levels of anxiety, depression, self-esteem and quality of life pre- and post-therapy, in individuals diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Three groups were used in this study, and were measured pre and post therapy over an eight week period of time. The first group did not participate in the therapy at all, a second group participated in the therapy for the first time, and the third group was already receiving the therapy. The data for the group already receiving therapy was reported as incidental data only, due to the uneven number of participants. The study hypothesis predicted that the group receiving the Equine Therapy would show significantly lowered levels of anxiety and depression, and elevated levels of self-esteem and quality of life post therapy, compared to the group not receiving the therapy, and that the group already participating would also show positive results post therapy. Although positive change was found on all variables post-treatment for the new participants, significance was found on only the quality of life variable post-test between the control group and the new participants. Significance was found on all four variables from pre to post-test for the new participants group, and on the post-test variables of quality of life and self-esteem for the group that continued to participate in the therapy. It is suggested that the benefits found throughout the individuals with MS may be transferable to larger populations with similar symptoms and complaints, such as individuals suffering from Cerebral Palsy and traumatic brain injuries. Further study with longer time involvement in the Equine Therapy is recommended in order to investigate if and how this may ameliorate the trajectories for persons with these chronic disabilities.

LLU Discipline





Graduate School

First Advisor

Todd Burley

Second Advisor

Kiti Freier

Third Advisor

Paul Haerich

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Animal Assisted Therapy; Animals, Domestic; Bonding, Human-Pet; Self-Assessment; Attitude to Health; Treatment Outcome


Doctoral Project

Page Count

xii; 72

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives