Identifying the best protocol: Social engagement or groundwork prior to therapeutic riding?


  • Betsy Kemeny, CTRS, PhD
  • Deborah Hutchins, CTRS, EdD
  • Courtney Gramlich, CTRS
  • Chelsea Craine, CTRS
  • Lindsey Crandell, CTRS



therapeutic riding, social skills, groundwork, autism spectrum disorder, adolescents


Adolescents with autism spectrum disorder may experience social isolation and decreased independence secondary to communication deficits. Limited evidence suggests therapeutic riding (TR) promotes social skills, but no protocol for TR with adolescents exists. This 8-week single-subject design measured social response to alternating treatments (groundwork or peer social engagement) prior to TR. Measures included a comparison of parent-report of social competence and a comparison of real-time and videotaped observations of six specific social skills. Data were analyzed by visual inspection of the graphed data and comparison of the descriptive statistics. Peer interaction prior to TR resulted in better verbal response while groundwork prior to TR resulted in better instruction following. In a departure from common practice of combining groundwork and TR, the specific goals and objectives for the individual with ASD should dictate whether a CTRS® should use social games or groundwork prior to TR.

Author Biographies

Betsy Kemeny, CTRS, PhD

Recreational Therapy Program, Slippery Rock University, Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania

Deborah Hutchins, CTRS, EdD

Recreational Therapy Program, Slippery Rock University, Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania

Courtney Gramlich, CTRS

Storm Harbor Equestrian Center, Slippery Rock University, Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania

Chelsea Craine, CTRS

Recreational Therapy Program, Slippery Rock University, Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania

Lindsey Crandell, CTRS

Recreational Therapy Program, Slippery Rock University, Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania


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How to Cite

Kemeny, CTRS, PhD, B., Hutchins, CTRS, EdD, D., Gramlich, CTRS, C., Craine, CTRS, C., & Crandell, CTRS, L. (2019). Identifying the best protocol: Social engagement or groundwork prior to therapeutic riding?. American Journal of Recreation Therapy, 18(1), 19–30.




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