Optimal Terminology Panel Discussion FAQs

November 6, 2020 Panel

Time ran out for the following questions to be answered during the allotted time of the panel. Several questions were duplicates and/or complimentary as such, some answers have been combined to better provide clarity.

Please explain the recommendation of having a facilitator trained in the particular area of equine-assisted learning (EAL in Education, Personal Growth and Development or Organizations) in order to provide EAL in Education, EAL in Personal Growth and Development or EAL in Organizations?

Equine-assisted learning (EAL) is a broad term that hosts three distinct services––EAL in Education, EAL in Organizations and EAL in Personal Growth. These services are non-therapy services. To qualify as EAL, they are delivered by specially trained or certified professionals who are trained, experienced and skilled in facilitating the content of the learning service. For example, to provide EAL in Education, the facilitator must have training as an educator. To provide EAL in Organizations, the facilitator must have training in organizational or leadership development. To provide EAL in Personal Development, the facilitator must have training in personal growth and development.

In addition, the professional must have extensive knowledge of horse behavior and handling, knowledge of human-horse relationships, and the ability to design experiential learning activities involving horses or work as a team with an individual with these equine skills. Qualified professionals can facilitate the outcomes of the learning activities to promote valuable life skills and personal growth that provide benefits to the client. EAL activities can involve interactions with horses, can be mounted or unmounted-activities and can include the equine environment.

There is no additional PATH Intl. certification requirement to provide this service.

Please explain the recommended use of the term 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. Services refer to work done for, or on behalf of others. Unifying is defined in a manner that identifies the common thread that 12 otherwise different types of services share. Most contributors to the consensus-building process believed that this concise shorthand term was necessary both to refer to multiple services that incorporate horses and other equines, and to help diverse professionals who provide varied services collaborate, discuss and resolve common issues. Furthermore, in the absence of recommending EAS, uses of alternative terms that have shown to be problematic would have continued usage. Optimal thus refers to the succinctness and accuracy of EAS, which was deemed superior to other terms. Lastly, EAS is intentionally plural because its function is to serve as an efficient shorthand for referring to at least two or more services.

Endorsements of the Optimal Terminology

The optimal terminology was endorsed by 12 of the 14 summit members (with one abstention) and endorsed by five boards of major stakeholders. Those boards include: PATH Intl., American Horse Council (AHC), Horses and Humans Research Foundation (HHRF), Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA), and Equine Experiential Education Association (E3A).

Eagala and CBEIP are still pending, as they had some initial objections. Eagala was concerned about not being able to use the term equine-assisted psychotherapy. In discussions with Eagala, it was pointed out that, although therapy-first language is recommended, using equine-assisted psychotherapy was acceptable in certain circumstances. The important point is specifically identifying what type of therapy is offered. CBEIP also had concerns about not using equine-assisted as a modifier for a specific therapy as well as horsemanship as too broad a term. The workgroup offered the same information regarding using equine-assisted as a modifier to a specific type of therapy and that horsemanship is the broad-area term that ties the individual services under horsemanship (therapeutic riding (for example) to the greater industry of horsemanship, or the equine industry, which encompasses all types of equine disciplines.

American Hippotherapy Association, Inc., endorsed all the terms and definitions with the exception of the unifying term, equine-assisted services. As therapists, they are very cognitive of the fact that therapy-first language is critical for practice integrity, consumer safety and reimbursement. In addition, incorporating horses is part of an overall treatment plan and not a stand-alone therapy. They expressed concern that having a unifying term tied them to the other non-therapy services in a way that indicated it was a stand-alone term. Lastly, OT, PT, and SLP are services within the healthcare industry. AHA also expressed concern that to be identified as one of several equine-assisted services creates confusion.

PATH Intl., on the other hand, recognizes that all these areas – therapy, learning and horsemanship – are unified through the common thread of incorporating horses. Many centers provide more than one type of service and need a way to talk about multiple services.

International Alignment

The workgroup received several questions about how this aligns with international terminology or if international organizations were consulted. The workgroup has been in communication with some international organizations (IAHAIO and HETI) and kept them apprised of the work being done. In addition, several of the stakeholder organizations in the United States have international members (PATH Intl., AHA, Eagala, HHRF). One of the biggest challenges are the terms hippotherapy and hippotherapist, which have a great deal of use and recognition internationally and are in direct conflict with therapy-first language. However, part of why the workgroup landed on equine-assisted services to unify all of the services was to be in alignment with animal-assisted interventions (which is a term widely used in the United States and internationally). The workgroup will continue to work with international groups to align terminology, particularly to benefit research.

Where do PATH Intl. Certifications and Credentials fall under each of the services outlined in the optimal terminology?

  • PATH Intl. Registered Therapist falls under the therapy category.
  • The PATH Intl. Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning (ESMHL) Certification is for the horse handler in a mental health session. While the certification falls under the horsemanship category, PATH Intl. standards require an ESMHL be present during all mental health therapy sessions involving an equine.
  • The PATH Intl. CTRI®, PATH Intl. Registered, Advanced and Master Therapeutic Riding, Driving and Vaulting Certifications fall under horsemanship.

What if the word therapy is in our center’s name or we list equine-assisted learning as a service on our website, but the center does not have therapists or trained facilitators to provide these services? Are there going to be repercussions for not aligning with the recommended terms?

If therapy is in your center’s name or you have equine-assisted learning on your website, evaluate whether it is accurate in describing the center’s offered services. If there is no actual therapy service, therapist or trained facilitators directly involved at the center, there is potential that the facility is misrepresenting itself.

PATH Intl. is dedicated to educating members on why it is important to have clarity in terminology, including in the name of member centers. The association will work with centers to come into alignment with the terminology and the services they are providing. After two years of educating, a process will be developed to hold individuals and centers accountable for using the optimal terminology.

What are the expectations for starting to use this terminology – time frame, marketing materials, concerns about costs?

PATH Intl. expects each organization will have its own roll-out plan. A workgroup of PATH Intl. members and staff have developed a three-phase roll-out plan. The phases will be to educate, facilitate and activate. Educating members and stakeholders will continue through all three phases. Phase two, facilitate, will begin six months to a year after the paper outlining optimal terminology is published. This is where we will facilitate and reinforce the new terminology through standards, integrating it into site visits, and introducing an adherence commitment form for members and credentialed professionals to sign. Phase three, which will begin after two years of educating, will include developing a process to hold centers, individual members and certified professionals accountable for using the correct terms.

The association recognizes there may be resources required in updating to the optimal terminology. There are for PATH Intl., also. Therefore, we are moving forward with these changes in a thoughtful manner of supporti

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