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Optimal Terminology

Optimal Terminology for services that incorporate horses to benefit people.

A two-year process among leaders in equine-assisted services has resulted in consensus for terminology across the field. This consensus document recommends optimal uniform terminology for naming and describing diverse services in the United States that incorporate horses to benefit people.

Equine-Assisted Services

Equine-assisted services (EAS) is recommended as an optimal unifying term to refer to multiple services in which professionals incorporate horses and other equines to benefit people.


Related to the broad area of therapy, licensed therapy professionals may incorporate horses in six distinct therapies: counseling, occupational therapy, physical therapy, psychotherapy, recreational and speech-language pathology. These licensed therapy professionals work within the scope of practice of their particular discipline.


Related to the broad area of learning, specially trained or certified professionals may incorporate horses in three distinct non-therapy services: equine-assisted learning in education, equine-assisted learning in organizations, and equine-assisted learning in personal development. 


Related to the broad area of horsemanship, equine professionals may offer four distinct non-therapy services that are adapted from traditional equine disciplines of horseback riding, driving, and vaulting. These include adaptive equestrian sport, adaptive riding or therapeutic riding, driving, and interactive vaulting. Equine professionals with specialized training or certifications provide these services to individuals and groups with diverse needs. 


The need for unifying terms in the industry was high as inconsistencies and disparities had been negatively impacting the industry by creating confusion  about the types of services being provided. A terminology workgroup 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.

“Optimal Terminology for Services in the United States That Incorporate Horses to Benefit People: A Consensus Document” has been published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. See it here.

Baseline Definitions Workgroup

Kathy Alm

CEO of Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International 

Debbie Anderson

PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor, equine-assisted learning, Strides to Success, Certified Equine Interaction Professional-Education, Equine Experiential Education Corporate Trainer, HorseWork Master Trainer

Joann Benjamin

Physical therapist, American Hippotherapy Association, Inc., hippotherapy clinical specialist, Hippotherapy Clinical Specialist(R) 

Michele Kane

Master’s in clinical mental health, veteran, PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor, Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning

Lissa Pohl

University of Kentucky Master’s in Community and Leadership Development, Equine Experiential Education Association  Master Trainer

Lynn Thomas

Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Founder/CEO of Arenas for Change (ARCH), President of Horses for Mental Health, and founder/former CEO of Eagala.

Wendy Wood

PhD, Occupational Therapist Registered/Licensed, Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association,, Professor of Equine Sciences and Occupational Therapy, Director of Research, Temple Grandin Equine Center, Colorado State University

We were a riding center that had been PATH Intl. compliant for nine years. Last year we became a Premier Accredited Center. One of the advantages is the recognition in our community of the high standards of PATH Intl.

Bobbie Abell
Premier Accredited Center Member

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