Selection and training of horses for animal-assisted interventions

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Selecting and training horses for Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI) constitutes a critical part of maximising the safety and wellbeing of both horse and human during a therapeutic intervention. Selection processes should consider the needs of the client, as well as the physical setting(s) in which therapeutic activities will take place. Horses of different physical and psychological dimensions may be valuable to an AAI practitioner in their capacity to meet the needs of a variety of clients. The training of an AAI horse, in most instances, is likely to focus upon ground handling skills, though this may differ from physically-oriented modalities such as hippotherapy, where the horse is ridden, compared
to more psychologically-oriented interventions, where the horse is less likely to be ridden. The nature of the therapeutic program and the goals of the client are likely to dictate the type of interaction that will occur between horse and client, with obvious implications for the training program of the horse. Training must not be considered a one-time affair, initiated and completed prior to the beginning of an AAI. Rather, training must be cyclical and ongoing, and may concern not just what the horse is required to learn, but also what the horse must unlearn as a consequence of being handled by inexperienced and potentially vulnerable clients who may not always behave safely around horses. Given that equine behavior is influenced by human behavior, the reciprocity of horse-human interactions and the role of the trainer in influencing a horse’s behavior must be considered central to the AAI process. The ethics of AAI depend to a large extent on the way in which AAI horses are managed and regarded both in and outside of the therapeutic context. The “freedoms”
and rights afforded to horses may determine the wellbeing consequences for horses who work in emotionally and, in some instances, physically demanding work settings, such as the AAI environment. Care and training of horses in AAI requires a team approach, with input from those with expertise in therapy and/or equine management across the lifespan of the therapy horse, acknowledging the potential benefits and harms that may be present
for horses engaged in this work.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAnimal-assisted interventions for health and human service professionals
EditorsCarlie J. Driscoll
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherNova Science Publishers
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781536174342
ISBN (Print)9781536174335
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020

Publication series

NameHealth and Human Development
PublisherNova Science Publishers


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