The Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) promotes safety and optimal outcomes in equine-assisted activities and therapies for individuals with special needs.
Vision: PATH Intl. is the global authority, resource and advocate for equine-assisted activities and therapies and the equines in this work that inspires and enriches the human spirit.
PATH Intl. has been a pioneer in the field of equine-assisted activities and therapies benefitting children and adults with disabilities and special needs. PATH Intl. sets the industry standards for education, training, safety, ethics, effectiveness, and proficiency in equine-assisted activities and therapies. PATH Intl. was originally founded in 1969 as the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association, promoting safe and effective therapeutic horseback riding for individuals with special needs. In 2009, the Equine Facilitated Mental Health Association was integrated with PATH Intl. In 2013, the association changed its name to the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.), to better reflect our mission and the expanded field of equine-assisted activities and therapies.
Equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT) can offer individuals with disabilities physical and emotional benefits that enrich their lives, improve their overall health, strengthen muscles and coordination, improve motor skills, promote speech and cognitive reasoning, and build social skills. Since our founding, PATH Intl. and our dedicated members have developed a multitude of different equine-related activities for therapeutic purposes:
• Therapeutic Riding-therapeutic horsemanship that involves mounted activities including traditional riding disciplines or adaptive riding activities conducted by a PATH Intl. Certified Instructor.
• Hippotherapy-a physical, occupational or speech therapy treatment strategy that utilizes equine movement as part of an integrated treatment program to achieve functional outcomes.
• Therapeutic Carriage Driving-equine-assisted therapy delivered while the individual is "mounted" in a cart or carriage pulled by a horse; activities are conducted by a PATH Intl. Certified Instructor and follow PATH Intl. Standards for Driving.
• Interactive Vaulting-equine-assisted activity that engages participants in horsemanship activities, movements around, on and off the equine or barrel and gymnastics positions and movements on the back of the horse; the horse works in a circle on a lunge/longe line at the walk, trot or canter.
• Equine-Facilitated Learning-an educational approach that includes equine facilitated activities incorporating the experience of equine/human interaction in an environment of learning or self-discovery; may be conducted by a PATH Intl. certified instructor, an educator, a coach or a therapist/ mental health professional with special training in partnership with horses to address mental health needs.
• Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy-partnering with the horse in interactive therapy and activities as a strategy to improve a client's mental health; a licensed/credentialed mental health professional works with an appropriately credentialed equine professional during the session.
• Competition-individual or team sports at the local, regional, national, or international level; integrated or specialized competition can be breed or activity based.
• Grooming/Ground Work/Stable Management-individuals with disabilities learn how to groom and tack their horses, under supervision by or with the assistance of a PATH Intl. certified instructor and volunteer(s), and assist in helping to care for the overall facility; may be part of a treatment plan or part of an overall learning experience.
• PATH International Equine Services for Heroes-a program utilizing a variety of EAAT disciplines specifically designed to help wounded veterans and active duty military personnel.
According to the US Census, nearly 50 million Americans have a disability. Equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT) can offer these individuals physical and emotional benefits that enrich their lives, improve their health, strengthen muscles and coordination, and improve skills that extend into daily living. Experiencing the rhythmic motion of a horse-whether on horseback or in a horse-drawn carriage-can be very beneficial. Riding a horse moves the rider's body in a similar pattern to walking, so riders with physical needs or challenges often show improvement in flexibility, balance and muscle strength. The unique relationship formed with the horse can lead to increased confidence, patience and self-esteem or improved communication skills. Whether it's a five-year-old with cerebral palsy, a 45-year-old recovering from a spinal cord injury, or a teenager with autism spectrum disorder, research shows that individuals of all ages who participate in EAAT experience physical and emotional rewards.
Despite the often life-changing impact of equine-assisted programs, the number of individuals served continues to represent only a fraction of those who could benefit from EAAT. As the standard-bearer for our industry, PATH Intl. works to increase awareness and understanding of EAAT, the value of EAAT as therapy, and the number of EAAT programs.
The more than 66,179 men, women, and children with disabilities served by PATH Intl. members range in age from 2 to 65 and older (more than 78% are age 18 and under). They face any number of challenges, including developmental disabilities; learning disabilities; autism/autism spectrum disorder; hyperactivity disorders; amputation; cerebral palsy; emotional/behavioral challenges; muscular dystrophy; multiple sclerosis; paralysis; reactive attachment disorder; spinal cord injury; stroke; traumatic brain injury; and visual or auditory impairment. EAAT also benefits at-risk youth and those dealing with family counseling issues, terminal illness, grief/loss issues, weight control disorders, and substance abuse.
The power of equine-assisted activities and therapies voiced by the lives they have touched:
"Jeff has gained balance, strength in his legs, arms and upper torso, but most importantly he has gained self confidence." --Trish Collins, Joppa MD
'This teacher, this friend, this difference maker gives comfortable wisdom and accessible knowledge."--Charles and Susan Rettig-Drufke
'Michael has been unable to participate in any formal, organized sport until now."--Jim Crotty, father of a child with bipolar disorder and Asperger's Syndrome
"Within one riding class there is a person with mild mental impairment, a young man with severe cerebral palsy, a girl with a severe cognitive impairment and another person on the autism spectrum."--Karen McPhail
"It is so hard to elucidate in writing the inner glow that shines outward in the spirit and work ethic of a truly exceptional instructor."--Milli Ann Denmark
"Nothing delights Deborah (a PATH Intl. Advanced Level Instructor) quite as much as watching a rider succeed in a lesson."--Vicki Kelley
"I was amazed how the horses, students and everyone participating in Chaplain Adaptive Mounted Program were healing me."--Resa Nilson
"Equine facilitated learning is a powerful and effective approach that has an incredible impact and potential when partnered with schools."--Debbie Anderson
"There is a growing body of knowledge demonstrating the efficacy of horseback riding used as therapy...to improve gross motor function in children with Cerebral Palsy."--John A. Sterba MD, PhD
'The horses were the bridge between the father and child, creating a common bond upon which they could build."--Blair McKissock
"Parents watch their children take risks, meet challenges and become independent."--Meggan Hill-McQueeney
"[Therapeutic riding] has helped me with stretching and flexibility in my hips. My core strength is better, I have improved my balance and stability and I have less pain. I have [also] found a new social group ...and have made friends with riders and volunteers."--Rene Suarez, Navy veteran
"Everyone can do more than they think they can."--Marj Kittredge, PATH Intl. Founder
"As a medical provider I have seen so much emotional & mental progress in patients who have contact with therapeutic riding. Amazing the power of horses and giving people who provide these programs. Thank you!"--Lauren Butcher