Research at the Farm

In keeping with its mission of education, Brook Hill Farm is involved in a number of research projects, from laboratory-based biological studies to the relationship between Equine Assisted Learning in Education and high school graduation rates of at-risk youth. Many of these projects are done in collaboration with colleges and universities, such as Virginia Tech, University of Lynchburg, and Randolph College.

Brook Hill collaborates with the Horses and Humans Research Foundation as a member of the Equine Well-Being committee, ensuring equines are cared for by best practices in research.  Brook Hill has presented their educational research at their national conference.

Educational Research

Brook Hill Farm has an ongoing research project testing the effectiveness of using Equine Assisted Learning in Education combined with academics addressing the problem of adolescents dropping out of high school.  If major threats to youth are those adversities that undermine basic protective systems for development, then efforts to promote competence and resilience in at-risk children should focus on strategies that protect or restore the efficacy of these basic systems. 

Equine Assisted Learning in Education is a relatively new field.  With the partnership of an educator and a horse, students can develop competence and resiliency, with the horse providing immediate and meaningful feedback.  The learning process is planned and guided, with the youth being able to address and alter their inappropriate behaviors in a new and challenging environment.

The youth develop competence and resilience through deliberate practice with horses and are able to transfer those skills back into the classroom.  In the classroom the youth receive academic help with a licensed teacher in the subjects they struggle with. 

To date, Brook Hill has a 100% graduation rate among its members.  Currently there is a pronounced lack of quantitative research on this subject to substantiate the effectiveness of Equine Assisted Learning in Education. 

This research has been presented at a number of international and national conferences, including the 2018 HETI (Horses in Education and Therapy International) conference in Dublin, Ireland, at the 2018 PATH Intl. (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemen International) conference, and at the 2019 IAHAIO (International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations) conference. 

To get a copy of the entire study,

Biological Studies

Brook Hill has collaborated with a Virginia Tech pre-Vet student studying new ways to work with fecal samples, identifying parasites in the Brook Hill Farm laboratory. 

One study that was done in collaboration with Randolph College honor students was to find the most effective treatment for rain rot (Streptothricosis), a self-resolving, scabby skin ailment that can afflict horses particularly during wet seasons.  After conducting a series of experiments with various over-the-counter treatment products, researchers found that a mixture of 90% baby oil and 10% tea tree oil is the most effective topical treatment for rain rot.  This study is being presented at an Equine Science conference in Ashville, North Carolina, in 2019.

Equine Therapy and Autism

The purpose of is study was to:
1) Determine the effects of 8 weeks of therapeutic horseback riding program on equine riding performance.
2) Determine the possibility of increased emotional regulation in youth with ASD after participating in therapeutic riding
3) Understand how the therapeutic horseback riding improvements translate to dynamic stability and mobility off the horse.

Stay tuned for the results!


In collaboration with Randolph College and Tad Coffin, an Olympic gold medalist, Brook Hill has tested the effectiveness of Tad Coffin’s specialized Thera-Tree technology and SmartRide Rx saddles on alleviating back pain in horses.  The study will look at the saddles impact on inducing calmness, and how they improve a horse’s cardiovascular health and endurance.  More information on Tad Coffin’s saddles and their impacts observed in horses to date can be found on his website: Tad Coffin Saddle.

Equine Welfare Data Collective

Brook Hill Farm is a participating member of the Equine Welfare Data Collective.  The first study polled they asked what type of organizations were helping horses, methods of record keeping, housing, breeds, and maximum capacity.  Based on the results, the rescues are able to hold 51,000 equines.  The average number of horses that rescues are housing is 43. Limiting factors were money and space.  Relinquished by owner was the most popular way that horses are coming to rescues.  Stay tuned as this organization continues to work towards collecting more data to help equines.

Equus Foundation

The EQUUS Foundation released a study by Dr. Karin Bump to examine the sustainability, equine welfare and business-related performance indicators of the equine charities that attained the EQUUS Foundation Guardian designation in 2022.

Brook Hill Farm is a participating member of the Equus Foundation’s data collection.  To see the results, click here:

Research and collaboration will move the industry forward!