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Equine Welfare eTip from Equine Welfare Committee

By Kitty Stalsburg, member of the PATH Intl. Equine Welfare Committee

Horse and Handler Match: Finding the Right Fit

Finding that illusive match between horse and volunteer can be a challenge. So many factors affect this dynamic that it sometimes seems nearly impossible. The unique qualities that each individual horse brings to the lesson need to be understood and valued. Likewise, the talent and skill that each individual horse handler has needs to be evaluated, appreciated and recognized. The puzzle of matching these two entities on a daily and weekly basis is the key to creating a successful, effective team.

There are a number of strategies which can be utilized to help understand both the needs of the horse and the skill of the handler. Creating an objective way to quantify this can be an invaluable tool in creating the matches. Horses and volunteers can be assessed and evaluated. Assigning a rating system will be useful in determining which volunteer has the skills required to lead a specific horse.

Sounds simple right? Unfortunately it is far from simple. There are some other, “softer” considerations as well. Some horses can object to a person’s smell or other personality traits which are not directly related to skill. Likewise, some leaders will have a stronger preference for working with a specific type of horse, ie Thoroughbred or draft horse. Size can be a consideration – stride length and even height for things like grooming and tacking. We have all seen the inadvertent effects that can occur when a leader allows their emotional state to influence their session with the horse. Some people struggle with being able to be “present” in the moment. Add all of this together with the simple considerations of availability and it is easy to see why this can be a frustrating dilemma.

Failing to provide the best matches all too often results in negative changes in horse behavior and loss of horse handlers. Volunteers may start to feel less successful in their role, they dread coming to program, they may even become afraid of their assigned horses. Ultimately, instead of being a place where they volunteer to feel good, they don’t and decide to stop volunteering altogether. Horses likewise, if not “heard” early on by listening to the subtle cues of ears and tails may need to resort to ways of becoming “louder” in their declaration of dissatisfaction – such as biting, balking, avoiding cues, unwillingness to move forward, being too forward, etc. For our four legged partners, our inability to listen effectively to them may lead to them being mislabeled as inappropriate for the job and needing to retire from the field.

Both of these outcomes, loss of horse and volunteer resources have a long term, negative impact on the program. The better option is to put additional resources into managing more successful matches. Providing initial and ongoing training to volunteers as well as horses. This investment into the “team” will have stronger return. Finding the right match takes time and training on all ends. Once a suitable match has found, it will be advantageous to observe and ongoing training, remediation and support as the experience changes.

It is our hope that we as a community commit to keeping exploring equine welfare and what it means in our work. There is so much that we know about these wonderful animals while we still don’t know and understand so much about them. The committee is here to share information that we have or we learn so that we always are talking about the welfare of our horses and advocate for them. 

Equine Welfare eTip from Equine Welfare Committee

Who Benefits and How? Equine Welfare and Animal-Centered Activities

By Lauren Fitzgerald, member of the PATH Intl. Equine Welfare Committee


“As humans, we explore the world through our hands and express emotional connection through touch [1], [2], words and sharing of food [3]–[5], whereas emerging research shows that horses create bonds through proximity [6], time and mutual engagement rather than touch or pressure.´, Emily Kierson, PhD candidate Oklahoma University, August equine Welfare Tip

For me this quote puts into question a principle often cited in the equine facilitated mental health, that of the interactions between people and horses being “mutually beneficial”. In my opinion, this may be an outdated and rather misleading concept. While equines can participate in programs with or without negative experience and/or benefit, equines are involved only because of human desires and decisions. Humans work with equines as well as other animals because it is beneficial to us: we are in power and control. In my work with children with psychosocial challenges offering and facilitating nature-based programs, I have seen and experienced the positive outcomes of these interspecies interactions again and again. Often an increase in confidence, empathy, compassion, respect, communication, emotional intelligence is observed in children. What of the horse and what about the horse? Equine behavior is different from ours and recognizing those needs can be complicated coming from the human world. What do horses actually gain through interactions with humans?

I have met some equines who seem to enjoy physical touch and interaction. I have also seen many who don’t really seem to enjoy it but learned to accept it. This fact creates a little bit of a dilemma, what should come first, human satisfaction or the feelings of horses? Being not only just kind to equines, but really understanding and accepting them and their needs as horses, is critically important in the children’s journey of building a truly mutual relationship. For example, while petting, hugging, kissing horses, may be good ways to teach children how to express their affection to the horses, but it may be more stressful and unnatural to the horses than helpful? Yes, they learn to tolerate it, but do they truly enjoy it?

An awareness of the contradictions and differences between what people and animal needs are important in our Green Chimneys approach to human-animal interaction, where we implement animal-centered program, in which children actively engage in activities to care for the animals, learn from and about their needs and do what is best for them. Children are encouraged to think about others, putting themselves in the animal’s hooves, (so to speak), and gain insight into forming relationship, ensuring welfare, considering ethics and social justice. At Green Chimneys, we also use a Positive Youth Development framework in Nature Based Programs and promote 5 + 1 Cs, Competence, Confidence, Caring and compassion, Connections, Character, + Contribution. When children engage in activities to care for the animals, from the beginning, we create animal focused goals quite different from more traditional human-centered activities such as riding, vaulting or growth and learning ground exercises.

Children come to the barn to do something for the horses to make a difference. Their mindset is “to help horses”. The activity itself already frames compassion, empathy, and the desire to be a steward. Children want to learn and gain knowledge on equine behavior, management, or health issues, in order to come up with ideas how to help them. Some of the activities involve grooming, treating minor injuries, or taking a horse for a walk. Other activities do not require horses to be directly involved but to just be themselves. For example, children who come to the barn around lunch time engage in mixing feed and mashes for the horses. Some prepare and feed the lunch hay. Some fill out the water buckets that are half empty. These activities, when intentionally and thoughtfully facilitated by a trained person, can create wonderful opportunities to build confidence, empathy and relationship skills while the horse at the same time is not being “used” in activities, but is allowed to just be themselves. This kind of activity then really could become mutually beneficial? Focusing and diverting attention from the child’s needs to those of the animal can be a major shift. The child who is at the center of all the psychological treatment we provide, of academic efforts is under pressure of “what is good for you”, “what you need”, and how “we help you”. When focusing on the needs of a horse, for a short while, the child focuses on someone else in need, and plays the role of a caregiver. This role reversal allows the child to feel confident and competent, feeling a lot better about himself and his ability to help others. We see children relax, and enjoy the experience as if pressure on them lifted. Often therapists say a child looks and acts freely while engaging in caring for the animals.

Another benefit is that equine behavior, language, and communication become very critical for children to learn when horses and their welfare is at the center. It is not about “what can a horse do for me”, but “what can I do for a horse”, and “how can I understand them better”. Children become so in-tuned with equine behavior and subtle cues. We have children observe equine behavior in a herd, and discuss what happens when a group dynamic changes, how they express themselves, and individuality of each horse. This then is translated to when children interact with horses in grooming. Horses exhibit different behavior on cross-ties, and children accept different needs individual horse has. Finally when they ride, they are aware of horse’s subtle cues such as ears as well as each horse’s personality and behavior. This allows children to ride with most concern about horse’s comfort and well-being in mind. When a horse is already tacked up and child just gets on the horse to ride, this whole connection and understanding of the horse as its own emotional being can be missed or underemphasized. In a therapeutic program, the child should be a guide and trusted leader working with a horse, not a person in control or in charge to make horse do things on his back. The child controls his own body and movements to best help horses move comfortably. The child learns to give clear and precise signals and cues to communicate with the horse. To me, that is closer to being “mutually beneficial”, not because the horse benefits from being ridden but the horse benefits from the rider understanding its behavior, needs, and movements and become mindful.

It is my hope that we seriously consider the notion of what is “mutually beneficial” in the human and equine relationship in EAA/T, that there are times when the benefit may be one-sided, sometimes we compromise and we have the chance to create situations that benefit the horse more. While we accept our power and impact on equine in domesticated setting, we can take ownership of the responsibility that comes with it, and put their needs and comfort in the center of the program to uphold the highest standards in equine welfare. Equine welfare education and animal-centered program can offer opportunities for the humans to learn and foster positive characters while offering equines more comfortable and optimal environment. https://4-h.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/4-H-Study-of-Positive-Youth-Development-Full-Report.pdf in this article, the words animals and equines are used interchangeably. As I work with not only equines but other domesticated animals, the idea applies to all animals including equine.

We Have Optimal Terminology Consensus!

It’s time to applaud the two-years plus efforts of the terminology resource workgroup, summit participants and all PATH Intl. members who took part in the research and development of Optimal Terminology For Services That Incorporate Horses To Benefit People: A Consensus Document. Furthermore the workgroup is honored to share that the document has been published in the JACM - Paradigm, Practice and Policy Advancing Integrative Health (The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine).
To quickly refresh memories, this group and initiative were organized for the purpose of helping to guide the process of developing baseline terms and definitions for dissemination and education throughout the field. The need for this endeavor was high as inconsistencies and disparities have been negatively impacting the industry by promoting confusion about the types of services being provided.
PATH Intl. suggests reading the full documents to enjoy and employ its recommendations. However, it is important to note the association does not expect immediate compliance! PATH Intl. will be updating materials alongside members. We have developed a two-year plan to educate and assist members and centers in utilizing the uniform terminology.
Click here for a one-page summary of changes.
Click here to see the published paper online.
Click here to see and download a PDF of the published document.
Have questions or want to submit feedback? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Optimal Terminology Panel Discussion FAQs

Click here for the Optimal Terminology Panel Discussion FAQs

Optimal Terminology Resources

PATH Intl. is leading an initiative with the goal of term definition consensus among the major stakeholders in the field of equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT). Thank you to the initial workgroup comprised of Joann Benjamin, Michele Kane, Lynn Thomas and Dr. Wendy Wood for helping to lead this important initiative. And thank you to the Bob Woodruff Foundation for making this project possible.
We are pleased to announce the participants in that summit, representing a wide range of perspectives from the EAAT field. The participants in alphabetical order are (click the participant's name to be taken to their bio below):

Kathy Alm – CEO, PATH Intl. /former PATH Intl. Center Executive Director

Debbie Anderson – Equine Assisted Learning & Therapy/PATH Intl. Center Administrator

Emily Bader – Program Officer, Bob Woodruff Foundation

Joann Benjamin – Physical Therapist/Hippotherapy Clinical Specialist/American Hippotherapy Association

Dr. Octavia Brown – PATH Intl. Master Instructor/Professor of Equine Studies, Centenary University

Analisa Enoch – Program Specialist for the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic (NVSSC)

Nina Ekholm Fry – Mental Health Professional/Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy and Counseling/University of Denver, Institute for Human-Animal Connection/HETI/CBEIP/ISES/American Hippotherapy Association

Margaret “Meg” Harrell – Chief program Officer, Bob Woodruff Foundation

Michele Kane – MA Clinical Mental Health/Veteran/PATH Intl. Therapeutic Riding Instructor  

Miyako Kinoshita – EFMHA/Equine Assisted Learning/PATH Intl. Therapeutic Riding Instructor

Martin C. Pearce – PR/Marketing/Communications/Parent of a participant

Lynn Klimas Petr – PATH Intl. Advanced Therapeutic Riding Instructor/PATH Intl. Center Founder & Administrator

Lissa Pohl – University of Kentucky, Community & Leadership Development/Equine Experiential Education Association (E3A) Master Trainer

Laurie Schick – Physical Therapist/Hippotherapy Clinical Specialist/American Hippotherapy Association/3rd party billing

Lynn Thomas – LCSW/Mental Health Professional/Founder & CEO, Eagala 

Wendy Wood, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, Professor of Equine Sciences and Occupational Therapy, Director of Research, Temple Grandin Equine Center, Colorado State University

Ken Minkoff and Chris Cline, Facilitators, Zia Partners, www.ziapartners.com


Kathy Alm began her service as chief executive officer of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) in August 2014. For the previous 16 years she served as executive director of Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center in Woodinville, WA. She grew the previously grass roots organization from a $280,000 annual operating budget to a professional $2.1 million organization. Kathy’s board service includes the PATH Intl. board from 2005 – 2013, including the office of board president, founder/board member of the Director of Disabilities Organization, board member of the Alliance of Eastside Agencies as well as founder/board member of Theatre Puget Sound. Throughout her tenure in equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT), Kathy has served as a PATH Intl. region representative, chaired the PATH Intl. administrators’ committee, and presented at numerous regional and annual conferences all over the country. She holds a BA degree from Pacific Lutheran University. Her dedication to the field of equine-assisted activities and therapies spans more than 19 years with a passion that was ignited the moment she walked through the door at her first therapeutic riding center. 

Debbie Anderson has been on the cutting edge of the equine-assisted learning and therapy industry for over 35 years. Debbie has specialized in creating EAL programs in partnership with schools, corporations and many mental health associations. Debbie is also responsible for co- founding Strides to Success, the first center in the United States to become accredited in PATH Intl. mental health standards. Debbie has authored and co-authored many EAL curricula and resources that are considered industry staples. In addition to being involved on a program level, Debbie has dedicated her energy to PATH Intl. for the last 25 years serving on many committees as well as serving on the PATH Intl. Board of Trustees. She also serves as a lead site-visitor. Debbie is a well-known conference presenter, motivator, mentor and facilitator within the EAAT industry. Debbie was PATH Intl. certified in 1996 as a therapeutic riding instructor and is also certified as an equine specialist in mental health and learning. Additional certifications include Certified Equine Interaction Professional in Education, Equine Experiential Education Association (E3A) certified corporate trainer, Master HorseWork trainer and is also EAGALA trained. Today, Debbie serves as the founder/executive director at Strides to Success with a mission of spreading knowledge and assisting centers worldwide by promoting best practices within the EAAT industry. 

Emily Bader is a program officer at the Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF). In this capacity, she is responsible for finding, funding, and shaping grants made to nonprofits addressing the needs of post-9/11 veterans, service members, military families, and caregivers. Emily manages BWF investments in mental healthcare programs and is the substantive leader within BWF on mental healthcare issues for post-9/11veterans. Prior to becoming a program officer, Emily held the roles of events coordinator and strategic initiatives officer. Emily started at BWF as an intern in January 2016 while pursuing her master’s degree in Near Eastern studies at New York University. During her time at New York University, Emily helped manage academic events ranging from intimate roundtable discussions to large-scale festivals. She concluded her master’s degree with the submission of her thesis on the impact of U.S. aid to Egypt between 1940 and 2011. Emily graduated Summa Cum Laude from St. John’s University with a BS degree in criminal justice, a concentration in forensic psychology, and minors in international studies and philosophy. She also studied Arabic at The Sijal Institute for Arabic Language and Culture in Amman, Jordan.

Joann Benjamin is a physical therapist, with a pediatric practice in the Los Angeles area. She has a particular interest in words and how we use them, whether writing curriculum for American Hippotherapy Association, Inc. (AHA), teaching courses, working with USEF and FEI 

in the para disciplines, or sharing the many benefits of using equine movement with patients. Her membership with NARHA (now PATH Intl.) began 35 years ago. She is a founding and lifetime member of AHA, having served in many roles, and was the AHA Therapist of the Year in 2017. She looks forward to participating in this project. 

Dr. Octavia J. Brown was a professor of equine studies at Centenary University in Hackettstown, NJ, where she directed Therapeutic Riding at Centenary, a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center. She taught various courses in the equine studies department. She holds a Master’s of Education degree from Harvard Graduate School of Education and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Centenary University. She is a PATH Intl. Certified Master Instructor and ESMHL and also holds EAGALA level 2 certification. Dr. Brown was a founding board member of NARHA, serving four terms on the board of directors. 

She served several years on the board of Horses and Humans Research Foundation, which led to exposure to funding applications from other countries and people/organizations not affiliated with PATH Intl. She is past president of the Federation Riding for the Disabled International (now HETI). She therefore brings significant international experience of terminology to the table as well as an historical perspective on the development of the entire field of EAAT in the United States. 

Analisa Enoch received her Bachelor of Science degree in business administration with a minor in marketing, Analisa spent the past fifteen years working for the Department of Veterans Affairs in different areas including Surgical Service, Mental Health, and currently for VA Central Office (VACO) in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events (NVSP&SE). The NVSP&SE office provides opportunities for health and healing through adaptive sports and therapeutic art programs. These specialized rehabilitation programs aim to optimize Veterans independence, community engagement, well-being, and quality of life.

In her current position as Program Specialist for the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic (NVSSC), she serves as the special event coordinator for all operations, budget, and planning that affects this national rehabilitative sport clinic. The NVSSC is an adaptive sport program for recently injured Veterans that takes place annually and is hosted by the VA San Diego Healthcare System. The program is built on clinical expertise within VA, with essential support from Veteran Service Organizations, corporate sponsors, individual donors and community partners.  As an event with national participation, the planning and direction for this enormous undertaking is both highly complex and multi-dimensional, requiring a very high level of organizational ability, management, and leadership skills. 

Her full-time duties have national impact and consist of a full-range of planning, organizing, implementation, and evaluation of this program. In addition to planning for this event, Analisa also oversees volunteer support staff, active duty Air Force and Marine volunteers, and directs the work of the local organizing planning committee. In addition to working for the Department of Veterans Affairs, she is married with two teenage daughters and spends most of her free time watching her oldest daughter play field hockey and youngest daughter play softball.  She enjoys traveling around the United States and to distant places, such as Africa.

Nina Ekholm Fry is director of equine programs at the Institute for Human-Animal Connection and adjunct professor at University of Denver where her work focuses on horses in clinical services and on equine behavior and welfare. For the past 12 years, she has specialized in inclusion of horses in psychotherapy in the United States and Europe and is a certified clinical trauma professional. She currently serves on the boards of the American Hippotherapy Association, Inc. (AHA) and the Certification Board for Equine Interaction Professionals (CBEIP). In addition to client work and teaching, Nina conducts facilitation workshops and is chief editor of the HETI Journal, published by the International Federation of Horses in Education and Therapy. Nina is a practitioner member of the International Society of Equitation Science (ISES) and teaches equine behavior at Yavapai College. She is active in the equine welfare community in the United States and consults on equine behavior and facility design nationally. Nina brings national and international experience related to education, organization and regulation of professionals who include horses in their services. 

Dr. Margaret “Meg” Harrell is the chief program officer at the Bob Woodruff Foundation. She formerly served the Obama Administration as the executive director of force resiliency, within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where she was responsible for the offices, policies, oversight and integrating activities pertaining to sexual assault prevention and response; suicide prevention; diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunity; personnel safety; and for Department of Defense collaboration with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Dr. Harrell spent 25 years at the RAND Corporation, where she researched military manpower and personnel, military families’ quality of life, and veterans’ issues. Her research portfolio includes approximately 70 publications. Concurrent with her time at RAND, Dr. Harrell served as a presidential appointee to the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force, 2013-2014. From July 2011 to August 2012, Dr. Harrell served as a Senior Fellow and Director of the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security, where her research focused on military veteran suicide prevention and response, veteran wellness, and veteran employment. She is a prior voting member of the Army Science Board, and has also briefed international audiences, testified before Congress, spoken extensively at conferences and guest lectured at the United States Military Academy. She holds a BA degree with distinction from the University of Virginia, an MS degree in systems analysis and management from the George Washington University, and a PhD degree in cultural anthropology from the University of Virginia, where her dissertation focused on the role expectations for Army spouses.

Michele Kane, Major, USMC (retired) retired from active duty Marine Corps in 2011 and moved from North Carolina to Fort Collins, CO, in order to attend Colorado State University’s equine sciences program. During that time, she also completed her master’s degree in professional mental health counseling (LPC). Michele learned about therapeutic riding while at CSU and decided to pursue PATH Intl. Therapeutic Riding Instructor certification. She was certified in December 2013 and hired by Hearts & Horses, Inc., in January 2014, mainly to work with veterans part time. Michele worked for the VA in Fort Collins until she was hired by Hearts & Horses as a full-time instructor and veterans program coordinator in January 2015. In January 2016, she was promoted to program director. She earned her PATH Intl. Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning (ESMHL) certification in 2018. Michele spent over 20 years on active duty, deployed multiple times and brings many years of military experience to the table. 

Miyako Kinoshita is the current farm education program manager at the Green Chimneys Farm and Wildlife Center. She serves as the key facilitator for over 200 children with psychosocial disabilities currently in residence and day school, and facilitates and co-supervises a wide range of animal-assisted programs. 

She has a master’s degree in educational studies, and specializes in animal-assisted activity and animal-assisted education. She looks back on over 20 years of working in direct service with children and animals as a PATH Intl. Certified Advanced Therapeutic Riding Instructor. Miyako is the former president of the Equine Facilitated Mental Health Association (EFMHA) and a former board member of PATH Intl., serving as chair of the board governance committee and as board secretary. Miyako was instrumental in reintegrating equine-assisted mental health programs back into PATH Intl., to cement the commitment to equines and equine welfare in the industry of therapeutic horsemanship. She is an author of several chapters in textbooks, including Handbook on Animal Assisted Therapy by Aubrey Fine. 

Currently, Miyako is playing a key role in the clinical study on nature-based program and its effect on positive youth development, conducted by the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work. Miyako coordinates and supervises some of the data collection for the multi-year scientific study to assist the investigators from on site. 

Martin C. Pearce has almost 25 years of PR/communications/marketing experience on both the agency and client sides. He has had the privilege of working for a diverse set of clients across many industries, including consumer (Barilla, Mars, Starbucks, Dove), technology (HP, T- Mobile), automotive (Nissan, Vespa), fashion (Ted Baker, Eddie Bauer), and cause-related organizations (The Omidyar Group, Humanity United, Seeds of Compassion, Omidyar Network). What he likes most about what he does is finding the best/right way to communicate to audiences he is focused on. Communications is important yet frequently under-valued and misunderstood. That said, all messages are only as good as those created with an understanding of the audience. Words matter as well as how they are delivered. Lastly, and personally, Martin really understands the power of equine-assisted activities and therapies as the parent of a 13- year-old boy who has benefited from it for 10 years. 

Lynn Klimas Petr, MS, is the founder and executive director of Shangri-La Therapeutic Academy of Riding (STAR) in Lenoir City, TN. STAR is a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center in its 32nd year of operation. Lynn holds a bachelor’s degree in special education and a master’s degree in therapeutic recreation from the University of Tennessee where STAR was her master’s thesis project. 

Lynn is active in PATH Intl., being a lead site visitor for accreditation. She is a PATH Intl. Certified Advanced Therapeutic Riding Instructor, a mentor for instructors and executive directors, a certified equine specialist in mental health and learning, and faculty for both the mentor and standards courses as well as for the associate visitor training course. 

Lynn assisted in the rewrite of the instructor certification test many years back and has taken on roles of state chair, region representative, education oversight chair, health and education advisory member as well as helping to start (and finish) the faculty development task force, AVTC training revamp and mentor training review and development. Lynn was also part of the 

certification review and development task force, “Reinventing Certification” workgroup and the strategic initiatives review committee. 

She is committed to assisting PATH Intl. in a constant quest for improvement in the equine- assisted activities and therapies industry and was awarded the National Volunteer Leadership Award in 2010. 

Lissa Pohl holds a master’s degree in transformational leadership development and works in the University of Kentucky’s Department of Community & Leadership Development. She has facilitated equine-assisted learning workshops with students, nonprofits and executives across the United States, the United Kingdom, and in Qatar for the Qatar Foundation. In 2012, she conducted research on “The Effectiveness of Equine Guided Leadership Education to Develop Emotional Intelligence in Expert Nurses.” 

Lissa is a certified level two Equine Experiential Education Association (E3A) Advanced Corporate Practitioner (2012), and became an E3A Master Trainer in 2015. Lissa served on the E3A Board of Directors from 2012–2018 with four years as vice president. As a member of the PATH Intl. EAL workgroup (2013-15), she assisted in defining terms and creating guidelines for the practice of EAL. She has been a volunteer at Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center in Seattle, WA, and Central Kentucky Riding for Hope in Lexington, KY. 

Laurie Schick has been a physical therapist for over 24 years. In 2004, Laurie began developing her interest in the therapeutic value of horses and became a PATH Intl. certified instructor. In 2005, she brought hippotherapy to Forward Stride, a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center in Beaverton, OR, eventually expanding services to five staff therapists. In 2016, Laurie moved to Bend, OR, and started a private practice at Healing Reins, another PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center. During that time she was instrumental in removing hippotherapy as an exclusion under the state Medicaid plan. Laurie partnered with Treehouse Therapies, a nonprofit pediatric therapy clinic in 2017. There she led the effort to add equine movement as a treatment tool and helped open a new 3,000 sq. ft. clinic at Healing Reins. Through Treehouse Laurie now bills insurance for all of her sessions, with 30% of her caseload being Medicaid patients. Laurie is also an active member of the AHA Reimbursement Committee. 

Lynn Thomas, LCSW, founded and serves as CEO of Eagala, a nonprofit association headquartered in Santaquin, Utah. Providing training and certification in the Eagala Model of equine-assisted psychotherapy and personal development, Eagala has over 2,500 certified members in 45 countries, with over 600 programs providing Eagala Model services globally. Lynn received her Master’s of Social Work degree from the University of Utah and has over 20 years’ experience working with adolescents, families, individuals and groups in various mental health settings. She served as executive director for Aspen Ranch, a residential boarding school for troubled adolescents, where she first developed a program integrating horses as the primary treatment component. After founding Eagala in 1999, Lynn continues to work with an incredible team developing and growing the organization’s training program, resources connecting the global network and presence within the mental health community at large. 

Wendy Wood is director of research of the Temple Grandin Equine Center (TGEC) and professor of equine sciences and occupational therapy at Colorado State University. As the TGEC’s research director, Dr. Wood mentors undergraduate and graduate students (MS and PhD) in research of equine-assisted activities and therapies. Guided by Dr. Wood, these students have partnered with interdisciplinary teams of educators, equine specialists and scientists, health professionals and social scientists to conduct: 1) systematic mapping reviews of literature pertaining to equine-assisted interventions; 2) research of a program of equine-assisted activities for older adults with dementia; 3) and research of equine-assisted occupational therapy for children with autism. Dr. Wood, her collaborators and students have presented their findings at regional, national and international meetings, and also published findings in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy, American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias, and Journal of Autism and Developmental Disability. 

Dr. Wood serves on the scientific advisory board for Horses and Humans Research Foundation. 


EAAT Baseline Definitions Workgroup

  • Kathy Alm; CEO of Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.), former PATH Intl. Center Executive Director
  • Debbie Anderson; PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor, equine-assisted learning, Strides to Success, CEIP-Education, E3A Corporate Trainer, HorseWork Master Trainer
  • Joann Benjamin; physical therapist, American Hippotherapy Association, Inc. (AHA), hippotherapy clinical specialist
  • Michele Kane; MA clinical mental health, veteran, PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor, Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning
  • Lissa Pohl; MA, University of Kentucky, Community and Leadership Development, Equine Experiential Education Association (E3A) Master Trainer
  • Lynn Thomas; LCSW, mental health professional, Founder and CEO of Eagala
  • Wendy Wood; PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, Professor of Equine Sciences and Occupational Therapy, Director of Research, Temple Grandin Equine Center, Colorado State University

Equine Welfare eTip from Equine Welfare Committee

From the members of the PATH Intl. Equine Welfare Committee: 

Miyako Kinoshita

Fran Jurga

Emily Kieson

Christine Rudd

Christie Schulte Kappert

Rebecca Gimenez-Husted


Blankets, Clipping or Natural Coat

Almost all horse owners have a different opinion about blankets, clipping, or natural coat for horses during cold weather.

Equine Welfare Committee members compiled some important points to consider when member centers are making their decisions. The purpose of this tip is to review some important factors to consider while you are making the decision.

We also provided a list of resources where you can find more detailed information on blanketing.

Consider the needs and condition of each horse as an individual by evaluating these factors:

  • Are you in a warm, temperate, or cool climate? Do your horses experience minimal temperature variation or wide temperature variation over the winter months?
  • Workload of each horse: Lots of walking? Walk/trot? Walk/trot/canter? Does a particular horse sweat more than others during the lesson? Is there too much sweat to fully dry the horse before re-blanketing and turning them out or stalling them?
  • Metabolism of the horse…Does the horse easily sweat? Does it tend to lose weight even when having more food intake? Does the horse show physical signs of being cold, such as shivering?
  • Living situation: Is the horse stalled? 50/50 stall/turnout? 100% turnout? Stalled horses have less opportunity to get the exercise they need to thermoregulate. Turned-out horses may or may not have access to wind or precipitation shelters.
  • Living situation: Muddy paddocks that never seem to dry out?
  • Wind, humidity, wet, dry: Weather is more than just temperature; what other factors impact how cold it feels to this horse? When turned out, does the horse have a place to lie down without touching the wet cold ground?
  • Preference: Does this horse destroy blankets to get them off?
  • Blanket dangers: Do you understand the danger of putting a blanket on this horse? Is this horse likely to catch a blanket on things in the stall or pasture, or injure itself by getting a leg tangled?
  • Can you offer a choice rather than a mandate? One committee member shared her experience: “I offer blankets to my horses in Macon, Georgia only a few days out of the year, when it is a combination of low temps below 40 degrees F WITH wind and rain and/or snow, or below 30 degrees F with wind. I offer the blanket at liberty. Most of the time they refuse and walk away.”
  • Does a horse seem to ask for a blanket? A committee member shared, “Some horses have very thin coats no matter where they live - and may ask for a blanket more often. My Hannoverian asks far more often than the others.”
  • What is the horse’s body condition, age, and health? A horse that is thin or has a hard time maintaining weight may benefit from blankets. Experts also recommend not to keep blankets on all day. Remove a blanket and allow direct sunlight to warm up the horse’s body during the day, and give them breaks.
  • Who’s watching this horse? Does someone regularly take blankets off horses if they are not working every day? Will fit be regularly assessed, and rubs addressed?

These specific considerations apply to a therapeutic-riding horse:


  • A horse may potentially have lengthy “vacations”, with little time in barn for regular check-ups.
  • Volunteers may not know how to properly “dress” the horse in its blanket.
  • Many centers struggle with the cost of blankets. However, donated blankets may require you to get by with some degree of ill fit, which can cause many different health and safety issues. Donated horse blankets should be fully cleaned before use.
  • Many therapy horses are older, and require monitoring of their overall health in winter, especially where they do not work regularly or are turned out. Lack of a solid field shelter with protection from wind cannot be replaced by the blankets.
  • Some horses may be sensitive to clipper use; this should be clearly posted and respected. New horses should be identified as clipper-shy on arrival.
  • Clipping should only be undertaken by someone skilled, who has a clear understanding of where and why a clip is needed and what first aid may be required, if needed. Necessary clipping tools should be clean and well-maintained.
  • Storage and thorough cleaning are critical for horse blankets. Fleas, mice, and dust mites love them. Mildew can be a problem if blankets are stored.
  • Horses can change size and shape from one year to the next. A blanket may not fit a horse for its lifetime.
  • Horses wearing blankets should be checked regularly for wear spots and skin irritations or infections.
  • A barn policy on blanketing (or not) should still consider needs and sensitivities of individual horses of different breeds and with specific skin or hair conditions.
  • Review past experiences on the farm, with both current and past therapy horses. Discuss blanketing with your farm’s veterinarian, who can offer input for the region’s weather and your horses’ potential needs and problems over the coming winter.
  • Blanketing for some horses may save on adding more food to their diet. If the horse is shivering, it is expending calories that some older and less thrifty horses may not be able to afford.

Links to information that can further help you decide what is best for your horses:

Proceedings of the 14th annual International Society for Equitation Science (ISES) CONFERENCE (Rome, 2018):


(See Page 57 and 59 for the abstracts related to blanketing.

ISES press release “To rug or not to rug?” related to presentations on blanketing at 2018 Conference:



2017 Horse Nation article with link to 2 scientific studies on the effect of choice on blankets: https://www.horsenation.com/2017/10/25/simply-the-science-blanketing/


EquineGuelph’s online tool for blanketing use:


“What You Need to Know About Blanketing” article from TheHorse.com:


SMARTPAK’s guide to blanketing (from a blanket retailer)


“The Science of Rugging Horses: What to use and when” by Dr David Marlin:


HorseTalk (New Zealand) summary of the ISES Rome 2018 presentation on rugging:

“The Accident-Prone Horse” from thehorse.com with comments from EWC member Dr Rebecca Gimenez:


EquusMagazine.com article on the history of horse blanketing and laws to enforce it in the US; perceptions (and illusions) of equine well-being based on providing “warmth”:


Link-laden reading list of peer-reviewed articles addressing the “science” of blankets and clipping:

Remember: Every barn, and every situation is different. We hope that this helps you make an informed decision that is best for your horses.

Dear PATH Intl. membership,

It is with great pleasure that your 2018 PATH Intl. Credentialing Council shares its first communication to the membership regarding council tasks and accomplishments.

Since being elected to the council in September, we have accomplished several critical steps in establishing a functional council.

Our first task was to recruit and select a qualified individual for the position of public member. The National Commission of Certifying Agencies (NCCA) defines a public member as “A representative of the consumers of services provided by a certificant population serving as a voting member on the governing body of a certification program, with all rights and privileges, including holding office and serving on committees. The public member should bring a perspective to the decision and policy making of the organization that is different from that of the certificants and should help to balance the organization’s role in protecting the public while advancing the interests of the profession.”  With this definition in mind, we began recruitment and ultimately identified two candidates. On October 19th, by majority vote, Dr. Steven Arnold was selected as the public member.

Dr. Arnold is currently the attending physician at Middlefield Family Practice, a staff physician with Trumbull Memorial Hospital and co-medical director of Burton Health Care Center. Dr. Arnold first gained horsemanship experience through 4-H in his youth which led to participation in pleasure driving. Through his medical practice he has treated many patients with disabilities and, in doing so, has experience serving families of individuals with disabilities. He is also a United States Army and Navy veteran. Dr. Arnold has experience with test development, job task analyses as well as performance analysis of test questions and procedures which will be beneficial to council tasks related to test development. We are excited about Dr. Arnold’s vast expertise and believe he will contribute a helpful perspective to council discussions. Please join us in welcoming Dr. Arnold into the PATH Intl. organization.

Our second order of business to date was to conduct an intensive review of the requirements for the PATH Intl. Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor Certification. During our in-person meeting in San Antonio, Professional Testing, Inc. guided us through redeveloping a framework for the certification and a code of ethics in alignment with the results of the job task analysis and the parameters set by NCCA standards. More information about the objectives for this meeting can be found on the “Trek to Accrediting the PATH Intl. Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor Certification” webpage at https://www.pathintl.org/quick-links/accrediting-tri-certification. The majority of our discussion revolved around the prerequisite experience that would characterize qualified candidates as described by the job task analysis. Honoring the work done by past volunteer certification committees and building upon the job task analysis, several options for prerequisites were discussed at a high level. Details of the prerequisites remain to be further developed as we work towards establishing demonstrable qualifications that are accessible and universally recognized. We will dig deeper into this development during our first quarter meeting on February 8 and communicate details of our work on the prerequisites as they are finalized.

Also at the San Antonio meeting, we completed our third task of determining rolling terms for council members. The terms for the 2018 PATH Intl. Credentialing Council members:

Member Name

Role on the PICC

Voting Member?

Term Duration (years)

Term Start

Term End

Patricia McCowan

Representative at Large





John Murdoch

Certified Driving Instructor – Level 1





William Lavin

Lead Site Visitor Representative





Regan Mays

Therapeutic Riding Instructor – Registered level





Steven Arnold

Public Member





Stephanie Roeter

Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning Representative





On January 4th, we completed our fourth task: election of the officer positions of chair and vice-chair. Please join us in congratulating William Lavin and Patricia McCowan for being elected to the positions of chair and vice-chair, respectively.

Member Name

Officer Position

Term Start

Term End

Patricia McCowan




William Lavin




Bill and Pat will work with the PATH Intl. staff liaison, Bret Maceyak, to coordinate council members’ ongoing efforts.

We are pleased to bring you this report of our activities over the last 5 months. We are honored to have been elected by the PATH Intl. membership and we do not take our posts lightly. We look forward to leading the organization through the pursuit of professionalizing PATH Intl. credentials through third-party accreditation of the PATH Intl. Registered Therapeutic Riding Certification. Watch for our next communication in two weeks regarding the tasks for our first quarter meeting.


The 2018 PATH Intl. Credentialing Council



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