Non-therapy equine-assisted services are equally as valuable as therapy services and have their own important, but distinct role within this industry. The contribution of non-therapy services should be clearly identified, respected and honored.

Equine-assisted learning, adaptive riding, and various forms of horsemanship used for human development are the common non-therapy services that include horses. These services typically focus on teaching skills, enhancing quality of life, and creating meaningful recreational opportunities.

Non-therapy services capitalize upon the recognized benefits of social interaction, physical exercise, and skill building (Rimmer & Rowland, 2006; Pendry & Roeter, 2013; Hauge, et. al. 2014; Lee, et. al., 2015;). While some providers focus on adaptive recreation by providing horseback riding lessons, others might use equine interactions to teach life skills, social skills, communication skills, or leadership skills while facilitating personal growth and increased self-awareness (DePauw, 1986; Ward, et. al., 2013; Dell, et. al., 2011; Kendall, et. al., 2015; Meola, 2016) (in Hallberg, 2018).

Individuals who provide non-therapy services may include adaptive and non-adaptive riding instructors, life, leadership, or executive coaches, and experiential educators. In the United States, professional licensure or speciality certification is not required by any governmental regulatory body to provide these non-therapy services.

The use of referrals between professionals is key in helping ensure consumers receive the service they need and that both therapy and non-therapy services are supported and valued. If the referral system is working property, a participant could move effortlessly back and forth along the continuum between non-therapy and therapy services as their needs change.

In order to best serve the individuals seeking equine-assisted services, referring professionals should also be educated as to what the purpose of the service is, and should be made aware that adaptive or “therapeutic” riding and equine-assisted learning including life, leadership, or executive coaching are not considered forms of therapy in the United States unless they are provided by or supervised by a licensed healthcare professional. 

What is Equine-Assisted Learning?

Equine-assisted learning (EAL) is a non-therapy skills-based service that focuses on teaching life skills, social skills, communication skills, or leadership skills while facilitating personal growth and increased self-awareness through both mounted and non-mounted interactions with horses. Services are provided by educators, riding instructors, or life/professional development coaches. EAL providers may teach horsemanship skills, and even use riding and other mounted activities as a means to foster skills.

What is Adaptive or “Therapeutic” Riding?

Adaptive riding is a non-therapy skills-based service in which instructors teach horseback riding and horsemanship skills to students with disabilities or special needs.

The American Hippotherapy Association, Inc. (AHA, Inc.) defines adaptive riding as “A riding lesson for individuals with special needs taught by specifically trained instructors. The primary goal of adaptive riding is to teach the recreational activity or sport of horseback riding to individuals with special needs” (p. 1, 2017). Most adaptive riding instructors are certified through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, International (PATH Intl.).

What is Horsemanship for Human Development?

These services are provided by riding instructors, horse trainers, and clinicians who focus on teaching people how to be more aware of themselves and their communications as they interact with their horses and learn key horsemanship skills. It is common for these services to meld “humanship” skills with an understanding of equine communication and behavior.