Equine Therapies

Equine-Assisted Activities/Therapies (EAA/T)

What is EAA/T?
Equine-assisted activities/therapies (EAA/T) is a comprehensive term for all equine activities and therapies designed for people with disabilities or diverse needs. 
Some examples of EAA/T include: Therapeutic Riding, Equine Facilitated Learning, Therapeutic Driving, Vocational Rehabilitation, Hippotherapy and Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy

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Who participates in EAA/T programs?

EAA/T programs are designed for people of all ages with cognitive, physical, emotional and social challenges or disabilities. Hundreds of accredited centres with certified instructors now exist around the world, offering a range of program opportunities for interested riders of all economic backgrounds.

How can I find an accredited program?

USA - North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) was founded in 1969 to “promote and support equine facilitated activities for individuals with disabilities”. 

NARHA, now called the 'Therapeutic Horsemanship Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH Intl.)' offers programs for member centres and a certification process for instructors. PATH Intl. Accredited Centres serve an estimated 40,000 students through Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapies www.pathintl.org

Canada - Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association (CanTRA) was founded in 1980 to promote, challenge, achievement and empower children and adults with disabilities through the use of the horse. 100 member centres across Canada providing high quality therapeutic, recreation, life skills and sport programs.

UK - Riding for the Disabled Association UK was founded in 1965. Its horses and ponies provide therapy, achievement and enjoyment to people with disabilities all over the UK. RDA UK’s network of 500 volunteer groups organise activities such as riding, carriage driving, vaulting and showjumping to 28,000 people each year.

Australia - Riding for the Disabled Association of Australia - The first RDA Centre in Australia opened in Brisbane, QLD in 1964. RDA Australia was formed in 1979. Each week over 3,000 volunteers at RDA Centres across Australia donate their time to assist 4,000 children and adults with disabilities enjoy the therapeutic benefits of horse related activities.

Different types of Equine Assisted Activity/Therapy (EAA/T)

  • Equine Assisted Activities/Therapies (EAA/T) – An umbrella term inclusive of all the various offerings of accredited centres and all of the equine activities and therapies designed for people with disabilities or diverse needs. This term is used for making global statements about centre activities involving participants (e.g. a centre that offers therapeutic riding, vaulting and/or hippotherapy offer equine-assisted activities).

Help special needs kids - Therapeutic Riding | Helen Woodward Animal Center

  • Therapeutic Riding (TR) – Mounted activities including traditional riding disciplines or adaptive riding activities conducted by a certified instructor.

  • Interactive Vaulting – Horsemanship activities, movements around, on and off the horse or barrel, and gymnastic positions on the back of the horse at the walk, trot or canter. Interactive vaulting offers educational, social, creative and movement opportunities for a varied population.

  • Therapeutic Driving – Activities related to Carriage Driving
  • Carriage Driving is a fast growing sport. It offers students with physical, mental, sensory or emotional conditions the rewards of interaction and control of a horse or pony while driving from a carriage seat or in the their own wheelchair.
    Using a horse and carriage gives participants an alternative or an addition to riding, opening up the world of horses to those who may be unable to ride due to weight, balance, fatigue, fear of heights, the inability to sit astride, or other issues. Therapeutic Driving is imparting knowledge of safety, horses, harnessing, and driving skills to children and adults using teamwork

  • Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) – (also, Equine Assisted Learning) - Includes equine activities incorporating the experience of equine/human interaction in an environment of learning or self-discovery. EFL promotes personal exploration of feelings and behaviours in an educational format. It is conducted by a certified instructor, educator or therapist. Goals may be related to self-improvement, social interaction and/or education.

  • Centre – A centre that has established membership with its peak body and agrees to comply with the peak bodies Standards.

  • Horse handler, horse expert, equine professional, horse leader, equine specialist – Terms which may be used to indicate the person handling the equine during a session and/or training and conditioning the equine for participation in equine-assisted activities. Usage may vary by discipline (e.g. a Hippotherapy session where a horse is long lined might have a horse handler; whereas, the person leading the horse in a therapeutic riding lesson may be the horse leader).

  • Equine – A general description inclusive of horses, ponies, mules, donkeys, or miniatures. 

  • Hippotherapy (HPOT) – Hippotherapy is a physical, occupational or speech therapy treatment strategy that utilizes equine movement. This strategy is used as part of an integrated treatment program to achieve functional outcomes. A body of research undertaken in the past decade indicates that Hippotherapy is a valuable treatment strategy in the field of Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy. Children from 2 years of age to adulthood with neuromuscular disorders and other disabilities gain positive outcomes in a natural environment.

  • Tandem Hippotherapy (T-HPOT) – A treatment strategy in which the patient undergoes handling by the therapist or skilled designee who is mounted on the horse behind the patient.

  • Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT) – Treatment that incorporates equine activities and/or the equine environment. Rehabilitative goals are related to the patient’s needs and the medical professional’s standards of practice.

  • Equine Facilitated Mental Health (EFMH) – Inclusive of equine-assisted activities and therapies with a focus on mental health issues.

  • Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) - Experiential psychotherapy that includes equine(s). It may include, but is not limited to, a number of mutually respectful equine activities such as handling, grooming, lunging, riding, driving, and vaulting. EFP is facilitated by a licensed/credentialed mental health professional working with and/or as an appropriately credentialed equine professional.

  • Therapy – Claims of providing therapy or treatment, or billing for services with a third party may be done only by a licensed/credentialed professional such as a PT, OT, SLP, psychologist, social worker, doctor, among others. Laws differ by state/country. If non-licensed/credentialed personnel claim to be doing therapy or providing treatment, this is often considered fraudulent.

Horses for Hope® www.horsesforhope.org.au

Horses for Hope® (Uniting Care), is a unique, powerful and challenging program that has wide application in both the community and corporate sectors.

The organisation focuses on developing and strengthening interpersonal skills, self confidence, self-awareness, communication, teamwork and leadership.

In its programs, participants develop a relations partnership and leadership. This unique and challenging process enables participants to reflect on their emotions, feelings, and life experiences, and identify, understand, and learn how to resolve personal and professional issues.

One-off and on-going programs are tailored to meet the needs of a broad spectrum of community and corporate groups and individuals including young people at risk, people in prison, new and established working teams, and those with specific personal and professional development needs.

‘Helping Real People Achieve Real Change’

Horses for Hope® is often a last resort for many of the people who reach out for its help, as they have sought relief from a range of other therapeutic options to no avail. Through its unique combination of Equine Assisted Therapy and Narrative Practice, Horses for Hope helps participants achieve real change in their lives.

Sometimes those changes may be small, slow or gradual but they always represent improvement and relief in real lives where it is desperately needed. 


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