Tag Archives: NARHA

Equine Therapy: NAHRA No More, Now PATH, by Claire Dorotik

The North American Riding for the Handicapped Association, also known as NARHA, originally formed in 1969, is now the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.).

The association tagline is “Ensuring excellence and changing lives through equine-assisted activities and therapies,” and is designed to reconstruct the now outdated NARHA model. Because equine therapy is such an evolving modality, there are now a myriad of ways in which horses can be helpful in the therapeutic realm. Yet NAHRA focuses mainly on programs that are designed for handicapped riders.

However, NARHA is the oldest organization for any form of equine therapy, and therefore creates guidelines for all other equine therapy activities, including those produced solely for mental health benefit. Recognizing the obvious constriction of this setup, the NARHA Board of Directors voted for the name change for several reasons.

Primarily, PATH is a much broader based organization, allowing for regulation of many types of equine therapy, including equine assisted psychotherapy, and learning.

Secondly, the term “handicapped” is no longer considered correct, and those who are restricted to a wheelchair prefer to be referred to as “wheelchair bound.”

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Equine Therapy: What Every Treatment Center Needs to Know, by Claire Dorotik MA

With equine therapy abounding, it has quickly become a status symbol among the country’s most prestigious treatment centers. However, while promulgating their use of horses to uncover the hidden emotions of substance abuse and dual diagnosis patients has become popular, many centers have also struggled with how best to offer this valuable treatment.

When equine therapy first emerged on the forefront, there was really no set protocol to be followed. While some centers purchased their own horses — and further advertised the availability of the horses on the grounds — others contracted out this modality through an independent provider. Further complicating the matter, some employed the use of both a licensed therapist and a horse handler, while others simply utilized the horse handler, or the psychotherapist who happened to “like” horses. However, as one can only imagine with any new, relatively unproven, modality, the outcomes were scattered and accidents happened.

And even when there was a clear method to follow, as presented by the Equine Growth and Learning Association, or EAGALA (www.eagala.org), work with horses wasn’t free of harm. To be sure, over the past five years, EAGALA reported more accidents than any other equine therapy approach. (Reports on any psychotherapeutic harm that may have occurred as a result of the inappropriate “interpretations” of untrained horse handlers are not available.) Yet perhaps due to the presentation of exercises such as “temptation alley” that correlated with what substance abuse and eating disorder patients might be experiencing, EAGALA was also the most popular method of practicing equine therapy.

Continue reading Equine Therapy: What Every Treatment Center Needs to Know, by Claire Dorotik MA