PATH Intl. History
Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.), along with its dedicated members and volunteers, has been a pioneer in the field of EAAT, bringing the novel idea of therapeutic horseback riding to the United States from Europe in the middle of the twentieth century. Lis Hartel, an award-winning dressage rider from Denmark, is generally regarded as the impetus for the development of therapeutic riding in Europe. Despite being physically impaired by polio, Hartel took the silver medal in Grand Prix dressage at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, and medical and equine professionals around Europe soon began to implement programs for riding as a form of physical therapy.
Word of these events spread quickly to the United States and Canada, and therapeutic riding centers began opening in North America as well. Two of the first professional riding centers were the Community Association of Riding for the Disabled, founded by J.J. Bauer and Dr. R.E. Renaud in Toronto, Ontario; and the Cheff Center for the Handicapped, founded with the help of Lida McCowan in Augusta, Michigan.
A group of 23 forward-thinking and passionate individuals soon recognized the need for an organization to act as a clearinghouse of information about therapeutic riding, so on November 2, 1969, this group gathered at the Red Fox Inn in Middleberg, Virginia, to lay the groundwork for the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA). From these beginnings, PATH Intl., as it is now known, has grown to thousands of members across the world and expanded upon therapeutic riding to include dozens of different equine-assisted activities that benefit people with special needs. Today PATH Intl. headquarters are located in Denver, Colorado, but hundreds of volunteers from all over the country – including a few of the founding members – still help run, govern and grow the organization so it may continue to be an industry leader.