Equine Assisted Therapy — Introduction

Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT) is a relatively new service. It has been the object of some controversy, both externally and internally. By externally we mean that it has been criticized for allegedly being over-promoted, and not supported as effective in well constructed research.  By internally we mean that among professionals providing EAT, considerable disagreement and conflict has arisen. The same apparent absence of well constructed research leaves the conflicts over methods unresolved.

Two organizations are primarily setting standards for this kind of activity.  They are "The Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA)" and "Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH International)"  EAGALA is a relatively new organization that is involved only in mental health treatment using horses.  It focuses on interaction between horses and people in therapy in situations other than riding. Some schools and programs claiming EAGALA equine therapy do include riding, but that is not part of EAGALA's agenda. By contrast, Path International started out with a focus on physical rehabilitation and skill building. More recently they have ventured into mental health areas. It is all about riding, while EAGALA is not involved with riding.

We are of the opinion that Equine Assisted Therapy is a useful tool in many situations, although we call attention to the absence of research support for its effectiveness. We have also become aware of  the Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA), which some therapeutic programs have joined and from which they have obtained certification. We have not found any evidence that this organization makes any therapeutic claims. They appear to be only about riding instruction.  We know of one program,where the participants are given the task of training a completely untrained horse from the beginning and taking that horse to the point of being a reliable riding horse. They consider that an integral part of their method of change, but do not, to our knowledge, call it therapy.

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Last update February 13, 2018

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