Equine-assisted learning (EAL) is an experiential learning approach that promotes the development of life skills for educational, professional and personal goals through equine-assisted activities. PATH Intl. provides standards of professionalism and safety for people working in the EAAT field and guidelines for those providing EAL.

In an EAL setting, the experiential approach integrates equine-human interaction that is guided by a planned learning experience to meet the identified goals or desires of the participant(s). Working with equines provides opportunities to teach critical life skills such as trust, respect, honesty and communication. Equines use mostly non-vocal communication and are in-tune with human behavior. This can help participants to better understand and learn how our non-verbal communication might be impacting or influencing others in their lives. Equines ask people to be aware of their surroundings at all times. Through interactions with the equines, participants learn a heightened self-awareness. Self-awareness is important in order to reveal patterns of behavior and gives participants the opportunity to think in a new way. Furthermore, participants gain self-esteem and self-confidence while learning how to work with such a large and powerful creature. In all, equines provide us with a way to see our internal landscape and modes of operation exposed. They offer us the opportunity to experience humility, compassion and challenge - all critical elements to supporting self-growth and self-awareness.

Professionals with a variety of certifications, experience and backgrounds can incorporate EAL into their programs. In EAL there are three main areas of concentration, education, corporate/professional development and coaching/personal development. Click here to see the basic core competences of an EAL professional.

PATH Intl. members in the EAL field have access to a broad range of PATH Intl. resources, including:
• Education specific to the learning field
• Opportunities for internships and mentoring
• Inclusion in a field of knowledgeable, seasoned professionals
• Continue their professional understanding and implementation of PATH Intl. ethics, standards and guidelines
• Network with their peers and other professionals in the field of equine-assisted activities and therapies through Community Connections.

Resources available:
PATH Intl. EAL Guidelines
PATH Intl. EAL Core Competencies
PATH Intl. updated EAL definitions
PATH Intl. EAL Manual

Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) serves more than 8,000 members around the globe – instructors, centers, administrators, program managers, equine professionals, students and individual members committed to the safe, ethical and professional standards PATH Intl. promotes in the equine-assisted activities and therapies industry.

Below are some ways that you can get involved in the EAAT industry and with PATH Intl..

As a Volunteer

As a Career

Equine-facilitated psychotherapy and equine-facilitated learning are growing fields in EAAT. Click on the links below to discover how you can create your career in EFP/EFL.

How to Start an EFP Private Practice

I'm a Horse Person - How Do I Get Involved?

Experienced horse people have many opportunities in the PATH Intl. organization. They can help ease the workload of center staff members by helping with horse care, training, client sessions, supportive vet care, stable management, horse transportation and exercising. Often horse volunteers go on to become certified instructors after volunteering with a program. Check for a center near you to learn about opportunities to get involved.

Becoming a presenter on horse-related topics at regional national conferences is another great way for knowledgeable horse people to help further the quality of the industry. Check the national conference page for opportunities to present a paper or lead a workshop.



Equine-facilitated psychotherapy (EFP) is an experiential form of psychotherapy that involves equines. PATH Intl. provides standards of professionalism and safety for people working in EFP.

EFP is defined as an interactive process in which a licensed mental health professional working with or as an appropriately credentialed equine professional partners with suitable equine(s) to address psychotherapy goals set forth by the mental health professional and the client.

The equine is a critically important partner in the work of EFP. The equine’s prey nature and intense sensitivity to subtle changes in their environment make them perfect partners for professionals who teach a wide range of life and coping skills.

The concept that horses might be helpful or healing to people struggling with mental health issues is based on the idea that horses (as domesticated prey animals) are extremely sensitive to changes in the human being (as a predatory creature). Due to their sensitivity, horses react and respond to people differently based upon the person's emotional state. Since we know that emotional states in human beings also impact our physiology, it only makes sense that horses can smell or sense (using their vomeronasal organ) those changes. The horse acts as a large biofeedback machine, providing the client and the therapist with information regarding the client's moods and changes within those moods. If a client arrives anxious the horse will act and respond one way. If the client is able to reduce his or her anxiety, the horse's behaviors will also change. This provides a plethora of information and skill building opportunities for both the client and the therapist.

PATH Intl. Members in the EFP field have access to a broad range of resources, including:

• Training specific to the mental health field
• Opportunities for internships and mentoring
• Inclusion in a field of knowledgeable, seasoned professionals

Experienced mental health members can:
• Participate in advanced training
• Continue their professional understanding and implementation of PATH Intl. ethics and standards
• Network with their peers and other professionals in the field of equine-assisted activities and therapies through Community Connections.

EFP Guidelines 

Please refer to the PATH Intl. Standards for Certification and Accreditation. EFP Standards and the Psychosocial Safety Guidelines are available in the individual member's only area, in the Standards Manual Section. Note: You will need to be logged in to access the PATH Intl. Standards for Certification and Accreditation

See Precautions and Contraindications section of the PATH Intl. Standards for Certification and Accreditation for more in-depth information.

For more on EFP, see EAAT Benefits.

EFP Manual (to purchase downloadable version)


Client has:

  • History of animal abuse
  • History of fire setting
  • Suspected current or past history of physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse
  • History of seizure disorder
  • Gross obesity
  • Medication side effects
  • Stress-induced reactive airway disease (asthma)
  • Migraines

Narrative for Precautions:

"Animal abuse" concerns are included in the interest of the horse's welfare. If the horse is not safe, then the session cannot be safe.

"Fire setting" histories should be carefully assessed to ensure the promotion of a safe physical environment.

"Active abuse" suspicions should always be reported to the appropriate authorities. Such reporting does not always result in cessation of the abuse. Clients are unlikely to be able to safely explore deep psychic issues in the context of a pervasively unsafe environment.

"Gross obesity" is associated with eating disorders and various other medical conditions. Obesity is a safety concern. Guidelines on weight limits for equines are included in the PATH Intl. Standards.

"Medication side effects" can lead to severe alterations in balance, arousal level, coordination, and strength as well as difficulties with speaking and breathing. Programs develop and implement procedures and process for remaining familiar with clients' medication regimen and clients' potential for and history of side effects.

An acute episode of "reactive airway disease" can be triggered by stress and anxiety. Although all medical conditions have a psychosocial component, RAD is singled out because of its prevalence and potential for sudden, severe onset of symptoms.

If "migraine" is in process; riding is not advised.



Client is currently:

  • Actively dangerous to self or others (suicidal, homicidal, aggressive)
  • Actively delirious, demented, dissociative, psychotic, severely confused (including severe delusion involving horses)
  • Medically unstable
  • Actively substance abusing

Narrative for Contraindications:

"Dangerous to self or others" is the clinically accepted term to describe those clients experiencing a psychiatric emergency. Equine experiences cannot be safely facilitated for clients exhibiting these behaviors.

"Actively delirious, demented, dissociative, psychotic, or severely confused", as well as "actively substance abusing" reflects the committee's agreement that equine experiences cannot be safely facilitated when clients are exhibiting serious alterations in mental status.

"Medical instability" can be associated with a variety of psychosocial challenges. The committee seeks to enhance awareness that physical/medical issues must always be considered as part of a thorough clinical assessment.



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