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The following guidelines govern common terminology use in our grant applications. These guidelines are based on US experience and practice, and some items may vary from those in use in other countries. We require that applicants adhere to these termioniology guidelines in wording proposals for funding from HHRF.

(and Readers)

Equine Assisted Activities (EAA)
– An umbrella term inclusive of all the various offerings of centers and all of the equine activities and therapies designed for people with disabilities or diverse needs. This term is accurately used for making global statements about center activities. For example, a center that offers therapeutic riding, vaulting and hippotherapy can say that they offer equine assisted activities.

Therapeutic Horsemanship
– Equine activities organized and taught by knowledgeable and skilled instructors to people with disabilities or diverse needs. Students progress in equestrian skills while improving their cognitive, emotional, social and behavioral skills.

Therapeutic Riding (TR)
– Mounted activities including traditional riding disciplines or adaptive riding activities conducted by a trained instructor.

Interactive Vaulting
– Horsemanship activities, movements around, on and off the horse or barrel, and gymnastic positions on the back of the horse at the walk, trot or canter. Interactive vaulting offers educational, social, creative and movement opportunities for a varied population.
Therapeutic Driving – Activities related to carriage driving. Follows standards for driving (if required by national organization), conducted by a trained instructor. May be considered equine assisted therapy if driving activities are incorporated by a therapist into a treatment plan. May also be done in competition.

Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL)
– Includes equine activities incorporating the experience of equine/human interaction in an environment of learning or self-discovery. EFL promotes personal exploration of feelings and behaviors in an educational format. It is conducted by a trained instructor, an educator or a therapist. Goals may be related to self-improvement, social interaction and/or education.

– Individual or team sports at the local, regional, national, or international level. Integrated or specialized competition that can be breed or activity based.

Vocational Rehabilitation
– Equine related activities that may include work hardening, work re-entry or vocational exploration. Participants are young adults or adults. May be considered
equine assisted therapy if integrated by the therapist as part of a treatment plan.

Certified Instructor
– A trained instructor of therapeutic horsemanship who is certified by a national or international organization.  Can include any of the activities named in this document except for medically-based therapies.

– An educator/teacher licensed or sanctioned by the state, school district, department of education or equivalent designation.

Horse handler, horse expert, equine professional, horse leader, equine specialist
– Terms which may be used to indicate the person handling the equine during a session and/or training and conditioning the equine for participation in equine assisted activities. Usage may vary by discipline. The HPOT session where a horse is long lined might have a horse handler, whereas, the person leading the horse in a therapeutic riding lesson may be the horse leader.

– A general description inclusive of horses, ponies, mules, donkeys, or miniatures.
Of special note: the equine is not inanimate, therefore, we refrain from phrases such as ‘using the horse’ or ‘a pony is used’. We might ‘use’ the movement of the horse, or we may ‘use’ examples of equine behaviors, we do not ‘use’ the animal. Consider phrases such as: work with the horse, equine partner, incorporating the equine, the horse assisting the therapist, or the pony facilitating the therapy.

– A general description of the persons that take part in equine assisted activities at a center for their benefit such as riders, vaulters, or patients. There will be varied usage depending on the discipline. For instance, in a therapy setting, it is appropriate to use patient or client; in a school setting, one may use the term student. Use of terminology related to persons with disabilities will follow the common usage by the World Health Organization (WHO) that is ‘people first, disability or diagnosis second’. Preferred statement: ‘rider with cerebral palsy’, Incorrect: ‘CP rider’.

Hippotherapy (HPOT)
– Hippotherapy is a physical, occupational or speech therapy treatment strategy that utilizes equine movement. This strategy is used as part of an integrated treatment program to achieve functional outcomes. (

Tandem Hippotherapy (T-HPOT)
– A treatment strategy in which the patient undergoes handling by the therapist or skilled designee who is mounted on the horse behind the patient.

Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT)
– Treatment that incorporates equine activities and/or the equine environment. Rehabilitative goals are related to the patient’s needs and the medical professional’s standards of practice.

Registered Therapist    Used in US only:  
–A licensed therapist or therapist assistant (PT, OT, SLP, COTA, PTA) who has registered with    upon completion of the AHA, Inc approved Hippotherapy coursework and the requisite number of hours of practice in hippotherapy.

Hippotherapy Clinical Specialist (HPCS)   Used in US only
– An experienced, licensed therapist (PT, OT, SLP) who has demonstrated an
advanced level of knowledge in hippotherapy by successfully completing a national board written examination.

Equine Facilitated Mental Health (EFMH)
– Inclusive of equine assisted activities and therapies with a focus on mental health issues.

Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP)
- Experiential psychotherapy that includes equine(s). It may include, but is not limited to, a number of mutually respectful equine activities such as handling, grooming, lunging, riding, driving, and vaulting. EFP is facilitated by a licensed/credentialed mental health professional working with an appropriately credentialed equine professional.

Mental Health Professional
– A licensed and/or credentialed medical professional who specializes in the treatment of individuals with psychiatric, psychological, emotional or behavioral diagnoses.

–  An activity is therapeutic if a participant derives benefit, shows improvement or feels better once engaged. An activity can be therapeutic without being considered as therapy. In general, EAAs may be described as therapeutic, but they are not therapy or is not considered treatment without fulfilling specific requirements. (See Therapy, defined below)

– Claims of providing therapy or treatment, or billing for services with a third party may be done only by a licensed/credentialed professional such as a PT, OT, SLP, psychologist, social worker, MD, among others. Laws differ by state (US)  and country. If non-licensed/credentialed personnel claim to be doing therapy or providing treatment, this is often considered fraudulent.

– Services in which therapy is provided. Generally thought of in a medical model. (See Therapy)

Terms to be wary of . . . .

Hippotherapist/Equine Therapist/Equine Assisted Psychotherapist
– These terms (and other similar terms) are problematic, at least in the US, as there are no such professions, professional education or licensing in the USA. An appropriate description would be the type of therapist followed by the specialty  (e.g. physical therapist using HPOT,   or clinical psychologist conducting EFP)

Modality or Tool?
– Within Hippotherapy, the use of the movement of the horse is defined as a tool rather than a modality. Legally, hippotherapy or the use of the movement of the horse is not a modality, and the term modality should not be used. Additionally, the equine is not the tool; the movement and/or the behavior of the horse is the therapeutic tool. (See Equine)

“Using the horse” or “the horse is used”?
– The equine is a sentient being, and participates in EAA/T by facilitating or assisting in the provision of services. Humane treatment during activities is essential, including respectful wording in discussing the equine’s participation.

This terminology list as been adapted from documents developed by The Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International
Updated February 2011

See Also

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