Equine Therapy Horse Care Standards

Today we have a guest post about Equine Therapy Horse Care Standards in the therapeutic riding industry. Cryshtal Avera has created a website/blog dedicated to this topic where systems and standards can be shared in a collaborative and supportive environment. I am excited to see another website related to therapeutic riding pop up and to help her promote her new site! (The link is at the end :))

Introduction to Equine Therapy Horse Care Standards

Horse care standards in equine therapy

Research via a study in 2016, where 74 participants from the equine therapy industry provided insight and data through a survey instrument has shown that invaluable information is available through operators in the field of equine therapy and there is a common desire for more standards, guidelines, and support regarding horse health and happiness in equine therapy.  EAGALA and PATH, International operators were the large majority of participants.  Comments showed that both EAGALA and PATH International offer general guidelines on horse care but PATH, International offers further support*, though not enough is offered within the industry.  Education for horse professionals in the field on an ongoing basis and higher standards for certifying horse professionals in the field of equine therapy was a common observation along with the feeling that standards should be provided with follow up support with the perspective that horse care is an objective subject dependent on key variables.  Specific symptoms and signs of burnout and preventative strategies were itemized in the research paper. 

Lifestyle Needs

Horses need consistent movement, a simple diet with no grain and a natural lifestyle to thrive.  Ulcers among other health issues are a symptom of a less than natural lifestyle seen in the equine therapy industry as well as the horse industry in general due to humans treating horses like humans rather than providing a lifestyle and care based on the way the horse was designed to live.

Give the horses a choice… Always

Too often in equine therapy, horses are placed in situations where they are restricted physically and are treated in a way that does not allow them to maintain their integrity.  Horses are often not allowed to choose not to participate.  The genuine desire to give the client what is intended to be an opportunity for healing is likely the reason for requiring horses to participate when their behavior has shown they clearly are unhappy and do not want to be there.  This is one aspect of horse care standard inside sessions that needs to be thoroughly visited, utilizing input from operators in the field.  Many have expressed, through the research, the belief that horses as sentient beings should always be given the opportunity to express opinion and to choose whether they want to take part in a particular activity.  The consistency of observations from those who utilize this strategy which shows positive outcomes for the horse’s health and happiness makes it worthy of further inquiry.

Work in progress

Individuals and programs participated in the survey instrument who have already begun work on this subject and are compiling data and researching horse needs in the equine therapy industry and should be considered key collaborators as part of the ongoing process.

Horsesandhumans.org is an organization focused on scientific research of equine therapy and how humans and horses are affected with a goal to support positive outcomes and should be contacted for a potential partnership in further research on the subject of horse care standards of therapy horses.

How can we move forward?

Inquiry into signs and symptoms of burnout, preventative strategies, and basic horse care needs with a goal of healthy and happy horses in the equine therapy industry on an ongoing basis, utilizing the expertise and experience of operators in the field, is needed to create a more detailed support system focused on the care and handling of therapy horses.  The research highlighted the genuine desire for more support and clarity on the subject of horse care by the facilitators and operators within the industry as well as the valuable knowledge and input available.  Strong recommendation for a team effort focused on uniting operators, facilitators, and certifying organizations by creating a mission statement based on a desire for unity is the result of this research project.

To join Cryshtal’s journey in sharing horse care standards, visit her new website,  https://equinetherapyhorsecarestandards.wordpress.com/. Please consider collaborating with her in her efforts, or in the least, following her blog!

*Cindy adds: Additional sources for equine therapy care standards through PATH Intl. are as follows. I am not familiar with others or EAGALA, so if you have additional resources please let me and Cryshtal know!

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Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgment!

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