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Industry Consensus Paper is Published-Optimal Terminology for Equine-Assisted Services

by | Nov 2, 2020 | Eagala Business, Eagala News

We are excited to announce that a concerted effort to develop a consensus on optimal terminology in the industry of services which incorporate horses to benefit people has resulted in a paper that is now published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal and available to read. 

Up to this point, there has not been a successful industry-wide effort to address the issue of terminology, and so the success of this latest effort is a positive and welcomed first step in addressing the issue. 

Problems with ambiguous, imprecise, and confusing terminology in our industry has been discussed for many years.

Some problems associated with this include:

  • Difficult for consumers to identify and access the service that best meets their needs and ensures their safety
  • Misrepresentation of services, such as mental health funding going to non-therapy services because of an assumption that just involving horses means it is “therapy” through confusing terminology such as “equine therapy”
  • Obstacles to obtaining funding because of a misunderstanding of the service, such as an assumption that “equine-assisted psychotherapy” is separate from “psychotherapy,” or “hippotherapy” is not “physical therapy”
  • Research articles using broad or non-specific terms, such as “equine-assisted therapy” or “equine therapy” leads consumers to drawing inaccurate conclusions, such as a research article on “therapeutic riding” being compared to and attributed the same as a mental health therapy session, when they are different services with different goals and methods. 

This terminology consensus process and paper has resulted in identifying optimal terminology to name and describe the varied services  where horses are incorporated to benefit people, and to identify specific terms to discontinue using because of being especially problematic.

In 2018, the consensus-building process was initiated, led by PATH International, and funded by the Bob Woodruff Foundation. A working group of five leaders convened to design the process. 

These leaders are:

  • Wendy Wood, PhD, professor, Animal Sciences and Occupational Therapy and Director of Research, Temple Grandin Equine Center, Colorado State University
  • Kathy Alm, BA, CEO, PATH Intl.
  • Joann Benjamin, PT, American Hippotherapy Association
  • Lynn Thomas, LCSW, Founder/CEO of Eagala
  • Debbie Anderson, CEO, Strides to Success
  • Lissa Pohl, MA, University of Kentucky and Equine Experiential Education Association
  • Michele Kane, MA, Major, USMC (Ret.), Hearts & Horses, Inc.

The consensus process involved:

  • Development and distribution of a survey to ascertain how stakeholders perceive the usefulness of prominently used terms.  The terms and definitions were obtained from websites and literature including 158 books and peer-reviewed journal articles. 
  • The survey was distributed to members and associates of the AHA, E3A, Eagala, Equus Foundation, and PATH Intl. Approximately 16,156 surveys were distributed, with 1,745 completed. The results were collected and analyzed.
  • A 2 ½ day professionally facilitated in-person terminology summit was convened to discuss the findings. The summit group included the initial workgroup, and an additional ten individuals representing different professional organizations and stakeholders in the industry. The summit group produced an initial framework of recommendations.
  • The workgroup developed a first draft of the paper, which then went through several rounds of drafts and edits obtaining feedback from the summit group and leaders of relevant organizations, including AHA, Inc., Bob Woodruff Foundation, Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA), Certification Board for Equine Interactions Professionals (CBEIP), Eagala, E3A, Horses and Humans Research Foundation (HHRF), PATH Intl., and US Dept. of Veterans Affairs.
  • Organization boards were asked to approve or disapprove the recommendations that were germane to their respective organizations.

The results from this process led to the paper identifying 12 specific services that relate to three broad areas of professional work: therapy, learning, and horsemanship. 

Optimal terminology for these 12 services, as well as a unifying term to refer to the multiple services, were named along with definitions and the rationale behind the decisions.

We are excited to share the paper with Eagala members, and, through Eagala Member Connect Calls, to engage in discussions with members on the paper’s recommendations. We can discuss how the paper can be utilized to educate and clarify the different types of services in this industry.  To register for Eagala Member Connect Calls, log into My Eagala – Resources.  

Lynn Thomas presented as part of a panel at the PATH International Annual Meeting on Nov. 6th on the consensus process and a preview of what the paper discusses. 

We invite you to watch the recording of this panel discussion and presentation here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTtNbSqYsUw  

Ultimately, the paper provides a critical first step in collaboration and consistency among our industry-leading organizations. 

We are proud of Lynn Thomas, Eagala Founder/CEO, who is a co-author of the paper, and honored to sit at the table with fellow leaders in the equine-assisted services industry to collaborate, learn and support one another in furthering our message and credibility of the diverse services we all provide through horses.