EAAT Facts

About Equine-Assisted Activities and Equine-Assisted Therapy (EAAT)

Throughout the world, hundreds of thousands of individuals with and without special needs experience the rewarding benefits of equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT). A physical, cognitive or emotional special need does not limit a person from interacting with horses. In fact, such interactions can prove highly rewarding. For instance, experiencing the rhythmic motion of a horse can be very beneficial. Riding a horse moves the rider’s body in a manner similar to a human gait, so riders with physical needs often show improvement in flexibility, balance and muscle strength.

Whether it’s a five-year-old with Down syndrome, a 45-year-old recovering from a spinal cord injury, a senior citizen recovering from a stroke or a teenager struggling with depression, research shows that individuals of all ages who participate in EAAT can experience physical and emotional rewards. For individuals with emotional challenges, the unique relationship formed with the horse can lead to increased confidence, patience and self-esteem. For teams in the corporate workplace and any individual seeking better leadership, team building or communication skills, working with horses provides a powerful new paradigm. – PATH International

Benefits of Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapy:

  • Increase muscle tone and coordination
  • Improve motor skills, strength and flexibility
  • Promote speech and cognitive reasoning
  • Recreation and social activity in an outdoor setting
  • Meet new people, building relationships and social skills
  • Learn about horses and other equine activities
  • Have fun!

There are many terms in use today for the activity that was originally called therapeutic riding.  The two terms that are most widely used today – equine-assisted activities and equine- assisted therapy.

Equine-Assisted Activities (EAA)- Equine-assisted activities are any specific center activity, e.g.. therapeutic riding, mounted or ground activities, grooming and stable management, shows, parades, demonstrations, etc., in which the center’s clients, participants, volunteers, instructors and equines are involved.

Equine-Assisted Therapy (EAT)- Equine-assisted therapy is 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.

Other EAAT Terms and Definitions

Equine-Facilitated Learning (EFL)-Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) is an educational approach to equine-assisted activities. EFL content is developed and organized by credentialed practitioners with the primary intent to facilitate personal growth and development of life skills through equine interactions.

Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP)-EFP is defined as an interactive process in which a licensed mental health professional working with or as an appropriately credentialed equine professional, partners with suitable equine(s) to address psychotherapy goals set forth by the mental health professional and the client.

Therapeutic Riding-Therapeutic riding is an equine-assisted activity for the purpose of contributing positively to the cognitive, physical, emotional and social well-being of individuals with special needs. 

Hippotherapy-The American Hippotherapy Association, Inc., defines hippotherapy as a physical, occupational or speech therapy treatment strategy that utilizes equine movement. The word hippotherapy derives from the Greek word hippos, meaning horse. The term hippotherapy refers to the use of the movement of the horse as a treatment strategy by physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech/language pathologists to address impairments, functional limitations and disabilities in patients with neuromotor and sensory dysfunction. This treatment strategy is used as part of an integrated treatment program to achieve functional goals.

Interactive Vaulting-Interactive Vaulting is an activity in which the students perform movements on and around the horse. These movements can be very simple such as sitting without holding onto the surcingle or a more elaborate compulsory move such as kneeling or standing on the horse. It all depends on the individual needs of the vaulter.

Therapeutic Driving-Carriage Driving offers students with physical, mental, sensory or emotional disabilities the rewards of interaction and control of a horse or pony while driving from a carriage seat or in their own wheelchair in a carriage modified to accommodate their wheelchair.