playing in the sandbox

I have a dream that one day people will truly understand and appreciate the connection we have with the other creatures on this planet.  That dream starts with bringing people and horses together. I want to see the Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies field grow and build connection and peace for all.

But we have to get along first.

I attended the PATH Int’l conference in November this year.  It was my first time at a PATH Int’l conference as a newly minted PATH member and also as a presenter.  I was excited not only to present but to get to meet others in the field and to gather as many new ideas as I could.  And learn I did.  I made wonderful and exciting connections and also learned a lot about how the field sees itself from the inside.  There was a lunch presentation that focused on a discussion of therapeutic riding instructors and their place in this growing field.  The room buzzed with energy as people asked questions of a panel.  Questions related to being paid, being recognized, not getting lost in a field that is becoming more and more based in various professional therapies and seemingly less therapeutic riding.  There appeared to truly be fear that somehow therapeutic riding as it traditionally has happened will be lost in the sea of equine assisted therapies.  I have to admit I was completely unaware of this factor prior to that lunch.  I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about it since then.  When I received feedback from my presentation (an overview of the program I run implementing equine assisted psychotherapy) which was in the psychotherapy track of the conference, I was again interested in comments that seemed somewhat linked to the above fear.  Several comments referred to the fact that our presentation was based in a specific model (EAGALA) and that we should research our audience prior to presenting as this was a PATH conference.  Others asked us to speak to application of our work within the context of therapeutic riding or equine assisted learning because this is a PATH conference for therapeutic riding instructors.

I’m a very analytical person.  so first, a little bit of history.

in 2010 the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association changed their name to the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship Int’l.  The purpose of this was to encompass both the organization’s international reach and the evolution of equine assisted activities and therapies to a point beyond the scope of simply therapeutic riding.  The EAAT field is multidisciplinary in nature.  We all believe that horses can help people grow and reach their goals.  Clients will come to us with many goals.  Goals that are physical, mental and spiritual in nature.  The creation of PATH Int’l created a doorway to house all of those disciplines under one umbrella.

Its raining.  We need to embrace the umbrella.

The EAAT field is at a place where truly together we will stand and divided we will fall.  The world is starting to notice that us “crazy horse people” may be onto something.  Quite often on the news, in the paper, or on social media you will see reports of people working with horses in various capacities to find healing.  But there is a long road ahead.  A road that requires scientific validation, research, collaboration, and openness.  We cannot work in silos doing our own thing and trying to sell our brand as better than the others.  We must embrace the culture of a multidisciplinary field.  We must start looking at what we do (no matter what we do with horses) as a healing practice and utilize the appropriate ethics, assessment tools, and disclosure to our clients.  We as EAAT professionals, no matter your discipline or training, must band together.  Just as every horse in the herd is accepted and has a purpose so to do all of our disciplines have a place in the EAAT herd.  Together we can create the dream we all have.  The dream where we get to help others find the power of horses.