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Horses and Humans Research Foundation Terminology Guide
Adapted from PATH International Terminology Guide


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 terminology guidelines in wording proposals for funding from HHRF.

GLOSSARY OF TERMS for Writers (and Readers)

Equine-Assisted Activities (EAA)
–Any specific center and/or service provider’s activity, e.g. riding, mounted or ground activities, grooming and stable management, shows, parades, demonstrations, etc., in which the centers or service provider’s clients, participants, volunteers, instructors, or other professional personnel and equines are involved.

Therapeutic Horsemanship
– Equine activities organized and taught by instructors and other professional personnel specifically trained to work with people with disabilities or diverse needs. The intent is for students to progress in equestrian skills while improving their cognitive, emotional, social and behavioral skills.

Therapeutic Riding (TR)
– Therapeutic horsemanship that involves mounted activities including traditional riding disciplines or adaptive riding activities conducted by a Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International certified instructor.

Interactive Vaulting
– An equine-assisted activity that engages participants in horsemanship activities, movements around, on and off the horse or barrel, and gymnastic positions on the back of the equine. The specially trained equine works in a circle on a lunge/longe line at the walk, trot or canter. This dynamic environment offers educational, social, creative and movement opportunities. The use of interactive vaulting for individuals varies depending on the population served and the goals to be obtained.  
Therapeutic Driving – Activities related to carriage driving. Following PATH International standards for driving, conducted by a PATH International certified and driving 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)
– An educational approach to equine-assisted activities, EFL content is developed and organized by credentialed practitioners with the primary intent to facilitate personal growth and life skills through equine interactions.

– 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 are oriented toward enabling a participant to re-enter the work force and 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 health professional/mental health professional as part of a treatment plan.

PATH International Certified Instructor
– An instructor of therapeutic horsemanship who is certified by PATH International at the registered, advanced or master level or who holds a certification recognized by PATH International.

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

Horse handler, horse expert, equine professional, equine handler, equine expert, equine leader, horse leader
– Terms that may be used to indicate the person responsible for controlling 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 an equine handler, whereas, the person leading the equine in a therapeutic riding lesson may be the equine 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 who take part in equine-assisted activities at a center for their benefit: Also called riders, vaulters, clients 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. 

Hippotherapy (HPOT)
– 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 therapist/health professional sits on the equine behind the patient in order to provide specific handling as part of an integrated treatment protocol.  

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

Registered Therapist    Used in the United States only:  
–A licensed therapist or therapist assistant (PT, OT, SLP, COTA, PTA) who has registered with PATH International 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 United States only
– A 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)
- Interactive psychotherapy that includees activities involving 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 supervised and facilitated by a licensed/credentialed mental health professional working with an appropriately credentialed equine professional.) Although EFP may encompass many different activities, the activities themselves are not the goal. Rather, these activities assist in reaching the psychotherapy goals set by the mental health professional and the client.  

Mental Health Professional

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

Therapeutic Activity
– An activity from which a participant derives benefit. An activity can be therapeutic without being considered a therapy or treatment. In general, equine-assisted activities may be described as therapeutic, but are not considered therapy without fulfilling specific requirements. (See Therapy, defined below)

– Specific treatment that meets the requirements for billing for services or billing with a third party may be done only by a licensed/credentialed professional such as a PT, OT, SLP, psychologist, social worker, or medical doctor, among others. Licensing/credentialing laws differ by state (United States) and country.

– 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 United States, as there are no such professions, professional education or licensing in the United States of America. 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 PATH International. Updated August 2011

See Also

Purpose  |  Applications  |  HHRF-funded research  |  Research Review Process  |  Innovation Grant