The Importance of Competencies 

General competencies and core practice-related competencies help to guarantee a higher quality of services, with the intended outcome of increased provider effectiveness and the provision of safer and more ethical services.

In most professions, this process is guided by rigorous scholarly research, and once accepted by the profession, core competencies are typically integrated into training and educational programs to ensure that providers function from the same baseline knowledge, and progress through a standardized acquisition of learning.

General Competencies 

These general competencies for equine-assisted activities & therapies are applicable for all provider types regardless of what service they offer.

I. Introduction to Equine-Assisted Activities & Therapies 

  1. History and Evolution of the Industry
    • Pioneers and training organizations
    • Professional associations
    • Research
  2. Foundational Theories
    • The Farm Milieu
      • E.O. Wilson, Peter Kahn, and Stephen Kellert (Biophilia)
      • Rachel and Stephen Kaplan (Attention Restoration Theory)
      • Robert Ulrich (Stress Reduction Theory)
      • Aubrey Fine (Animal-Assisted Therapy)
      • Novelty effects and motivation
    • Experiential Learning Theory/Cognitive Development
      • David Kolb
      • John Dewey
      • Jean Piaget
  3.  The Horse
    • Understanding horses
    • The horse as a therapeutic presence
      • Sensitivity
      • Herd Structure
      • Communication
    • The horse as a sentient being
      • Treatment, care, and wellbeing
      •  In practice – designing activities and interacting with equines as sentient beings
  4. The Provider
    • Professional competencies
    • Roles & Responsibilities
    • Personal and professional growth
  5. Terminology, Ethics, & Standards
    • Terminology and practical applications of terminology including:
      • Different types of equine-assisted activities and equine-assisted therapies
      • The differences between therapy and non-therapy services
    • Ethical issues including:
      • Scope of practice
      • Limitations of practice
      • The ethics of appropriating equines for human wellbeing – concerns and considerations
    • Indications, precautions, and contraindications
    • Standards of practice

II. In-Depth Knowledge of Horses, Horse Care, & Horse Handling * 

  1. Species-specific ethological knowledge
    • Physiology, psychology, behavior, and learning
    • Communication
    • Herd dynamics
    • Breed characteristics
  2. Equine care and welfare based upon ethological needs
    • Social interactions/freedom of movement/play
    • Food/water/shelter/turn out
    • Barn and equine hygiene
    • Grooming
    • Exercise and conditioning
    • Basic first aid
    • Basic hoof care
    • Vet/farrier care
  3. Equine equipment
    • Halter/lead rope
    • Grooming equipment
    • Lunge line/lunge whip/long lines
    • Surcingle/pad
  4.  Equine handling
    • Approaching/moving around
    • Haltering/leading/lounging
    • Tying/restraining
    • Tacking (for groundwork only)
    • Use of horse handlers, equine specialists, or other support staff
    • Emergency situations
  5. Equine assessment
    • Equine selection and emotional aptitude
    • Physical health and conformation
    • Body condition score
    • Temperature/pulse/respiration/capillary refill time
    • Stress/burn out
    • Pain/injury/illness
    • Soundness/movement quality
  6. Equine training & conditioning
    • Lounging or long-lining
    • Liberty work
    • Bending and stretching exercises
    • Novel experiences
    • Body condition score as tool to assess training and conditioning
  7. Ethics
    • Horse as sentient being vs. tool
    • Animal care ethics and considerations
    • Ethical treatment and techniques of handling and engaging with equines in a therapy setting

*This list of recommended competencies does not include mounted work. For use of mounted work, an additional set of advanced competencies are required.

III. Risk Management

  1. Equine-related risk management
    • Safe behaviors of humans around horses
    • Equine communication and herd dynamics
    • Instinctual and learned equine behaviors and responses
    • Use of safety equipment
    • Equine training, conditioning, and care
    • Pre/post equine assessment
    • Equipment use and upkeep
    • Environmental and situational awareness
    • Equine first aid
    • Emergency planning for varying levels of incident
  2. Human-related risk management
    • De-escalation, crisis intervention, and conflict resolution
    • First aid/CPR
    • Medical releases
    • Informed consent *
    • Participant assessment for risk, precautions or contradictions, and appropriateness for the service
    • Through medical history collected on all participants that includes mental health issues
    • Pre/post session or lesson participant assessment
    • Emergency planning for varying levels of incident
  3. Administrative risk management
    • Standards, policies, and procedures
    • Incident reporting
    • Patient confidentiality and privacy *
    • HIPAA compliance
    • Facility preparedness and safety
    • ADA compliance
    • Liability insurance (general, professional, equine)

*For therapy services only, however this knowledge is an essential component to cross training for all who provide equine-assisted activities or equine-assisted therapies 

IV. Program Administration

  1. Business planning
    • Writing a business plan
    • Budgeting
    • Marketing
  2. Record keeping
    • Participant forms
    • Equine forms
    • Staff forms
    • Volunteer/intern forms
    • Facility forms
    • Administrative forms
  3. Participant intake process
    • Forms and releases
    • Participant/parent/guardian education about services and logistics
  4. Human resources
    • Organizational chart
    • Job descriptions
    • Application
    • Background check
    • Documentation of education, experience, licensure, continuing education
    • CPR/First Aid/other certifications
    • Contracts
    • Supervision
    • Training
  5. Billing and collections
    • Contracts
    • Private pay
    • 3rd party reimbursement
  6. Quality assurance
    • On-going program assessment and evaluation
    • Participant evaluations and satisfaction surveys
    • Personnel evaluations
    • Equine assessments and evaluations
    • Safety record
  7. Facility Considerations
    • Compliance with industry standards
      • PATH Intl. Standards Manual
    • Compliance with legal requirements related to providing a healthcare service*
      • Local, state, and federal laws
      • Healthcare facility licensing
    • Upkeep and management
      • Maintenance/hygiene
      • Safety
      • Therapeutic quality
      • Ongoing assessment