Equine-assisted therapy (EAT) encompasses a range of treatments that involve activities with horses and other equines to promote human physical and mental health. The use of EAT has roots in antiquity, and EAT applies to physical health issues in modern form dates to the 1960s. Modern use of horses for mental health treatment dates to the 1990s.
An overall term that encompasses all forms of equine therapy is Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapy (EAAT). Various therapies that involve interactions with horses and other equines are used for individuals with and without special needs, including those with physical, cognitive and emotional issues. Terminology within the field is not standardized, and the lack of clear definitions and common terminology presents problems in reviewing medical literature. Within that framework, the more common therapies and terminology used to describe them are:
Therapeutic horseback riding, Hippotherapy, Equine-assisted learning (EAL), Equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP), Interactive vaulting, Therapeutic carriage driving, Equine-Assisted Activities (EAA)
Most research has focused on physical benefit of therapeutic work with horses, though the most rigorous studies have only been subject to systematic review since about 2007.
EAAT have been used to treat individuals with neurological diseases or disorders such as cerebral palsy, movement disorders, or balance problems. It is believed the rhythmical gait of a horse acts to move the rider’s pelvis in the same rotation and side-to-side movement that occurs when walking; the horse’s adjustable gait promotes riders to constantly adjust to encourage pelvic motion while promoting strength, balance, coordination, flexibility, posture, and mobility.
EAAT have also been used to treat other disabilities, such as autism, behavioral disorders and psychiatric disorders.
Coming soon – a directory of Equine Therapy providers in South Africa