Categories: Educational
small rider doing "horse therapy" with a yellow helmet

At PALS, we often receive inquiries about whether we provide “horse therapy.” Many of our clients are surprised when we respond with a clear “no, we don’t.” The terminology can indeed be confusing, but the distinction is crucial, so let’s delve into it further.

Organizations that utilize horses to assist people are generally engaging in some form of “equine-assisted services” (EAS). One type of EAS is horse therapy.  In horse therapy, “licensed/credentialed therapy professionals may incorporate horses in six distinct therapies – counseling, occupational therapy, psychotherapy, physical therapy, recreational therapy and speech-language pathology –to address individualized goals and improve overall function, health and wellness.”1 In simpler terms, “horse therapy” involves collaboration between a horse, a trained EAS instructor, and a licensed therapist. Similar to other therapy forms, these services are often covered by health insurance.

The services that PALS offers fall into two other categories of EAS: Equine-Assisted Learning (EAL) and Adaptive Recreational Services. During our EAL sessions, our instructors “leverage experiential learning activities involving interactions with equines, mounted and unmounted activities, and the equine environment to optimize the learner’s experience.”2 This means that learners engage in a variety of hands-on activities with horses that are designed to enhance their educational experience and personal growth.

In contrast, our Adaptive Recreational Services focus on providing enjoyable and adaptable lessons with a horse. These lessons are specifically tailored to accommodate individuals with disabilities, ensuring that everyone can learn and have fun while interacting with our incredible herd of specially trained horses. These activities not only promote physical activity and engagement but also foster a sense of accomplishment and joy among participants.

Understanding the differences between these services is essential. While horse therapy is a structured, therapeutic approach involving healthcare professionals, our offerings at PALS are more about education, personal development, and recreation. Both types of services play vital roles in enhancing the lives of individuals, but they do so in different ways and with different objectives.

By recognizing these distinctions, our clients can better appreciate the unique benefits that each type of equine-assisted service provides. Whether it’s through therapeutic interventions or engaging educational and recreational activities, the bond between humans and horses can create profound and lasting positive impacts. At PALS, we are committed to leveraging this bond to enrich lives through our dedicated Equine-Assisted Learning and Adaptive Recreational Services.