Providing Environmental Enrichment to Improve Horse Welfare

By Emily Kieson, PATH Intl. Equine Welfare Committee member

Horses who live in conditions where routines remain excessively predictable may not be getting enough psychological stimulus which can affect how they respond to us, the environment, and our participants. Many horses are often individually-housed, have very sterile living spaces, and lack variety in environmental conditions. Creating variety in living environments could provide them with opportunities to explore, solve problems, and engage with their surroundings which can reduce stress and associated behaviors by improving psychological welfare.

Environmental enrichment can include more social contact with other horses, but it can also include the creation of more options for free choice of movement, introduction to new toys, obstacles, or even creating new environments with novel footing. Essentially, environmental enrichment opens up opportunities for our horses to learn and problem solve on their own. Most of us want our horses to be able to navigate uncertainties during classes and we can provide them with practice by including some variety and play in their daily life.

The key to providing the best enrichment is knowing the individual motivations for the individual horse and providing outlets for that horse to express the desired behavior (Bulens, Van Beirendonck, Van Thielen, & Driessen, 2013; Mason, Clubb, Latham, & Vickery, 2007). This, of course, may take some trial and error which may take some time, but none of it needs to include any additional costs. A lot of horses seem to be content for a majority of the time if they have enough grass or hay to browse upon and they are still within sight of their favored horse companions (Thorne, Goodwin, Kennedy, Davidson, & Harris, 2005). However, too much standing, weaving, pacing, or other stereotypies can be markers for stress (Mason et al., 2007) so more measures should be taken to help horses find behavioral outlets.

Knowing the individual preference of a horse can help. Young horses, some geldings, and stallions, often show the need to play or release excess energy and providing options can help reduce stress. Most studies indicate that a simple, handmade toy (e.g. a sand-filled plastic bottle on a rope) provides some outlet for horses when hay is not available (Bulens et al., 2013). For horses that are social, spending free, unstructured time with favored horse friends, allowing to freely explore new places, or creating unstructured time for horses to explore new objects in open spaces can also provide options for environmental enrichment.

Keep in mind, though, that, aside from social interactions which are best if they involve a consistent partner with whom the horse has built trust, environmental enrichment involves constant change. Enrichment is only helpful if the item or approach is novel. Since novelty wears off as a horse becomes desensitized to something, it is important to regularly change out toys and novel objects. This can be simple if you are allowing your horse free time in an arena and create new obstacles with existing equipment that the horse has never seen before. Try arranging pool noodles like teepees, creating odd arrangements of standards and jumps, or tying plastic bags (or feed sacks) to known objects in new ways that allow for new options in exploration, curiosity, and play. Overall, whether your barn is planning on creating a paddock paradise (track system) or if you simply want to create new opportunities for your horses to express and explore, establishing programs for environmental enrichment can help support your horses’ psychological welfare and allow them to become the best partners for us and our programs.


Bulens, A., Van Beirendonck, S., Van Thielen, J., & Driessen, B. (2013). The enriching effect of non-commercial items in stabled horses. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 143(1).

Mason, G., Clubb, R., Latham, N., & Vickery, S. (2007). Why and how should we use environmental enrichment to tackle stereotypic behaviour? Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 102(3–4), 163–188.

Thorne, J. B., Goodwin, D., Kennedy, M. J., Davidson, H. P. B., & Harris, P. (2005). Foraging enrichment for individually housed horses: Practicality and effects on behaviour. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 94(1–2), 149–164.

Author Bio:

Emily Kieson has a PhD in Comparative Psychology and actively researchers equine behavioral psychology and horse-human interactions with the Swedish non-profit Mimer Centre. She is certified as an ESMHL and serves on the PATH Equine Welfare Committee.

Natural and non-invasive mosquito control

By Rebecca Himenez-Husted, PATH Intl. Equine Welfare Committee member

Natural and non-invasive mosquito control Mosquitos bring a lot of communicative diseases and concerns to equines and humans, and it seems like every year there are Equine Encephalitis, West Nile virus, and something new. While there are many mosquito repellent programs that are highly effective but costly or use pesticides and chemicals, there are other things to reduce the population of mosquitoes that have less impact on environment and your wallet.

1: MOST practical…. GET RID OF STANDING WATER - mosquitos can turn an egg into an adult bloodsucking insect in just a few days as the water gets warmer in the spring and summer. Standing water in paddocks, old buckets, tires, under parked equipment behind the barn, or ANY other place that even a FEW tablespoons of water they can breed in. Adult mosquitoes are susceptible to infection by a practical infectious agent = the spores of the soil bacterium Bacillus thurigiensis israelensis (BTI). Infection with BTI makes the larvae unable to eat, causing them to die. BTI pellets are readily available at home and gardening stores, easy to use (simply add them to standing water), and only affect mosquitoes, black flies, and fungus gnats. Treated water remains safe for pets and wild animals to drink. The disadvantages of BTI are that it requires reapplication every week or two and it doesn't kill adult mosquitos.

2: be CREATIVE: - Use mosquito fish in your ponds and large water sources - they eat the larvae of mosquitoes more effectively than ANY poison and don't hurt the environment! They also are hardy and breed like crazy if you protect the fry.

3: Encourage Natural Predators: - Dragonflies are mother nature's F-16 for mosquitoes - they prefer a pond with natural plants to breed in and their larvae are ALSO predatory. Whatever you can do to encourage a natural pond habitat will help these amazing insects help you prevent mosquitoes in the first place! They are VORACIOUS and fun to watch, too.

4: Bats have bad reputation, but are very beneficial to have around: - Bats are often feared for transmitting rabies and other communicative diseases. However, bats are safe to have around as long as you have some safety precautions, and they are great animals to have around the barn for pest control. Protect and encourage bats with bat houses and habitats that bats need. These amazing animals eat their weight in insects EVERY DAY in the spring and summer seasons - at night when the mosquitoes are really active. All of the negative publicity they get from uninformed folks has hurt their numbers in the USA - but their good far outweighs the bad! Here is some tips to get started with bats -

5: Build Homes for the beneficial birds: - Protect and encourage swifts, barn swallows, purple martins and many other types of birds that specifically eat small insects by making places for them to build their nests (barns are a favorite! but also bridges, chimneys that are abandoned, etc.) Adding bird seed feeders, large brush piles, and allowing Mother Nature to landscape the edges of your properties instead of mowing every last square inch to make it pretty for humans to look at will really attract the birds and lizards that eat TONS of mosquitoes and insects. You can get more ideas here -

- Just to add some fun to the program participants, staff, and volunteers… Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a program and App called eBird, , an online database of bird observations providing scientists, researchers and amateur naturalists with real-time data about bird distribution and abundance. People can contribute to data collection, look up birds, and find out the birds in their area. It may add some fun and joy while contributing to the science. A combination of these methods will educate your volunteers and students about more natural ways to keep poisons out of the environment we and our horses live in. Bringing nature closer to our homes and facilities is healing in many many ways.

Member of the Month: Landa Keirstead

The first PATH Intl. member of the month is Landa Keirstead from California! Landa is the founder and program director of One Step Closer Therapeutic Riding Inc., a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center in Morgan Hill, California. Landa is a PATH Intl. Certified Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor and Mentor who left the medical field after 30 years to become an instructor in 2006 because she wanted to become a PATH Intl. Instructor and she "loved this organization!"

Landa shared that her favorite thing about belonging to the EAAT community is helping others. Her first career? A registered dental assistant who learned about EAAT from a friend. When asked to tell us something about herself that most people don't know, she said, "I am a twin!" Her favorite EAAT horse was Reba who was the center's first therapeutic riding horse and had been rescued from auction as a pregnant mare. She recalls the center's first participant Gabe as a favorite participant. "Gabe has Down syndrome, a love for the horses and a great sense of humor."

PATH Intl. asked her to share a life lesson she had to learn the hard way and Landa replied, "My life lesson involved a moment when my attention and focus were not there and subsequently I was injured by one of my favorite horses." This is a situation many of us can relate to. When asked for a piece of advice she'd like to share with fellow PATH Intl. members, Landa answered, "Our passion for helping people with horses is a special gift. It isn't easy sometimes but it means so much to individuals who may not have other opportunities." If she could have her wildest dream fulfilled it would be to have a covered arena they could use year round so they wouldn't have to cancel lessons due to weather, etc. We asked her to complete the following sentence: When I wear my PATH Intl. logo (or otherwise display my affiliation), I feel: "Very proud to be part of one of the best EAAT organizations helping people today."

PATH Intl. is proud to have you as a member, Landa. Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place. Congratulations!

2020 Year of the PATH Intl. Member

ruth w horseIf there’s one thing the EAAT community loves more than improving lives safely, it’s a celebration. PATH Intl. Members will hopefully be excited that 2020 is officially the year of the member! The association plans to celebrate and show its members love all year long. Show your love for PATH Intl. membership throughout the year and have the chance for prizes and inclusion on social media and in upcoming eNews issues and Strides magazine.

Watch for a year full of new member benefits coming your way!  This includes Member Connections for easy and enhanced networking and discussion. Watch for a new longevity program launching this year. We’ll also have member’s only appreciation discounts and presales throughout 2020. And centers will love the launch of Grant Station as a benefit in the very near future. With tools and info for securing funding, this great new benefit will help fund your mission and it be unveiled in the very near future.

The photos below are a great example of a group of hard workers who very clearly love their PATH Intl. membership. Pictured are Hector Antonio Guzman (Hector), Santo Inoa (Sandy), Keny Vega (Keny), Eutacio Devora Caraballo (Blanco), Francisco Antonio Vazquez Galan (Chikito), front row Nicole Clausen and Ruth Claus. Ruth (a PATH Intl. Registered Instructor) is the director of a new center EEAT center in the Dominican Republic, Ranch Playa. The whole team had a fun day as you can see. Please note the awesome cake!

While we don’t expect everyone will be able to bring a cake to the table, we’d love, love, love to see more creative photos and video demonstrating your love for PATH Intl. If you’re so inclined, it would be really fun to include the “I ♥ PATH Intl. Membership" image in your photo or video submissions. The image can be found here and printed. Throughout the year we’ll use the images in social media and other marketing materials. Please email video or images plus a photo release form to Kaye Marks, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If your video is too large for email, let Kaye know and she can give you some upload options. Random entries will receive prizes throughout the year!

Cheers to you, our PATH Intl. Members! Happy 2020, the year of the member!

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Member of the Month: Cynthia Linsenbardt

The PATH Intl. Member of the Month for April is Cynthia Linsenbardt a PATH Intl. Certified Instructor from Bloomington, IN, who lends her expertise and passion to the fine folks at People and Animal Learning Services, Inc. a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center also in Bloomington.

Cynthia first joined PATH Intl. in 2011 to pursue instructor certification after a few years of volunteering at different EAAT facilities. She says her favorite thing about belonging to the EAAT community is that, “We are all on the same team - everyone is about helping the riders and caring for the horses, instead of competing and making money off of them.” She first learned about EAAT as a child in 4-H and went on to start her career in outdoor education. But when we asked her to tell us something about herself that most people wouldn’t know, she said, “I lied, my first career was making miniature saddles for model horses in high school!”
Her current horse Zella, is a favorite, “a Rocky Mountain Horse who was gracious enough to let me train her and had such a gentle calm spirit. She has taught me so much about riding correctly.” She recalls a favorite participant, “A young lady with little strength below the waist and delayed reactions, yet who is so brave to depend on her horse and volunteers to keep her safe, who is constantly smiling and joking and having fun. Through the right team of horse and people we were able to progress her so far in balance and confidence.”

A life lesson she had to learn the hard way? “That setbacks make you stronger. When I didn't pass the PATH Intl. Certification riding test the first time, I went and took lessons from a variety of people and ended up becoming a much better rider than I would have had I passed the first time, and for that I am very grateful! Whatever setbacks you face, if you are humble and accept them and make the best of them, they will make you stronger, better and wiser in the end!”
Cynthia says her wildest dream fulfilled for the next 50 years of PATH Intl. and EAAT might be, “That being a PATH Intl. Certified Instructor would be a viable professional career with a respectable salary, so instructors would not feel the need to go further into directing or programming to make a living, so they can continue doing what they do best-- teach!”

When she wears her PATH Intl. logo, she reported feeling, “A part of something good, that helps and values people of all abilities.” You are valued too, Cynthia! We’re so happy to be part of that something good WITH you!



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