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PATH Intl. was founded in 1969 as the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) to promote safe and effective therapeutic horseback riding throughout the United States and Canada. Today, PATH Intl. has more than 850 member centers and nearly 7,600 individual members in countries all over the world, who help and support more than 54,000 men, women and children with special needs each year through a variety of equine-assisted activities and therapies programs.
Though PATH Intl. began with a focus on horseback riding as a form of physical and mental therapy, the organization and its dedicated members have since developed a multitude of different equine-related activities for therapeutic purposes, collectively known as equine-assisted activities and therapies (or EAAT). Besides horseback riding, EAAT also includes therapeutic carriage driving; interactive vaulting, which is similar to gymnastics on horseback; equine-facilitated learning and mental health, which use the horse as a partner in cognitive and behavioral therapy, usually with the participation of a licensed therapist; ground work and stable management; and PATH Intl. Equine Services for Heroes, which uses a variety of EAAT disciplines specifically to help war veterans and military personnel. In addition, many of PATH Intl.’s 25 volunteer-driven committees are working on identifying and refining even more disciplines and activities that might be put to use in the world of EAAT.
PATH Intl. Certified Instructors use these equine-assisted activities and therapies to help tens of thousands of individuals each year with physical, mental and behavioral challenges gain strength and independence through the power of the horse. EAAT helps people from all backgrounds and all walks of life in a variety of ways, including increasing strength and flexibility, improving motor skills, promoting speech and cognitive reasoning, and building relationships and social skills. The individuals served by PATH Intl. members may face any number of challenges, including paralysis, multiple sclerosis, autism, Down syndrome, substance abuse, traumatic brain injury or amputation – but all benefit from the power of the horse.
PATH Intl. upholds its mission to promote excellence in EAAT through four primary program areas: instructor certification, center accreditation, educational opportunities and advocacy work. PATH Intl. certifies instructors and accredits centers according to a set of field-tested standards designed to ensure the highest levels of safety, ethics and effectiveness in the industry. Instructors must attend workshops and pass both a written and practical exam to become certified to teach EAAT programs, and centers may undergo a voluntary site visit to become accredited service providers. The process is led by trained PATH Intl. members who volunteer their time and expertise to help teach, test and grade fellow professionals seeking certification or accreditation. To date PATH Intl. has over 3,500 certified instructors in several disciplines and almost 800 member centers who confidently provide EAAT services according to PATH Intl. standards.
In addition to certification and accreditation, PATH Intl. offers many different educational resources to its members and other industry professionals, including hands-on workshops, educational publications and industry newsletters, mentor programs and peer networking, and regional and national conferences. PATH Intl.’s conferences attract hundreds of attendees each year, who come to hear lectures by leading industry professionals, learn about the most recent developments in EAAT, and participate in discussions about trends in the medical and equine fields. In addition to these educational opportunities, PATH Intl. also advocates for the application of professional standards in all realms of EAAT and partners with like-minded organizations to promote the use of EAAT in new and innovative ways.