The Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) was founded in 1969 as the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) to promote safe and effective therapeutic horseback riding throughout the United States and Canada.
PATH Intl. first focused on horseback riding as a way of promoting physical well-being. The organization has since expanded to include a wide range of equine-related activities used for therapeutic purposes, including mental health, which collectively is known as
equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT).
Today PATH Intl. has more than 850 member centers and nearly 7,600 individual members in countries all over the world. Members serve more than 54,000 men, women and children with special needs each year through a variety of equine-assisted activities and therapies.
The organization certifies instructors and accredits centers according to a set of field-tested standards designed to ensure the highest levels of safety, ethics and effectiveness in the industry. Instructors must attend workshops and pass both a written and practical exam to become certified to teach EAAT lessons, and centers may undergo voluntary site visits to become accredited service providers.
“The PATH Intl. standards ensure that our centers and instructors maintain the safest, most ethical and most effective programs possible for the thousands of people who participate in EAAT. These standards educate everyone at the centers and the public about best practices and procedures within the industry,” explained Cher Smith, communications coordinator/webmaster for PATH Intl.
In addition to horseback riding, EAAT includes therapeutic carriage driving, interactive vaulting, equine-assisted learning and mental health. There also is the PATH International Equine Services for Heroes, which uses a variety of EAAT disciplines specifically to help war veterans and military personnel.
“As we discover the benefits of EAAT for additional populations, PATH Intl. Centers are able to offer more services to a greater number of people,” Smith added.
The individuals served by PATH Intl. members may face any number of challenges, including paralysis, multiple sclerosis, autism, Down syndrome, substance abuse, traumatic brain injury or amputation, but they all benefit from the power of the horse.
To learn more about PATH Intl., visit http://www.pathintl.org.