How to become an equine therapist? Equine therapy stands as a powerful tool for promoting healing and personal growth among individuals with disabilities. Through the profound bond forged between humans and horses, clients embark on a journey of self-discovery and empowerment. Guided by skilled equine therapists, this journey leads to transformation, as individuals overcome challenges, build confidence, and embrace their full potential. Equine therapy not only enriches the lives of those directly involved but also highlights the remarkable capacity of animals to heal and inspire. In this article, I am going to give an overview of how to become an equine therapist.

The Therapeutic Bond Between Humans and Horses

The bond between humans and horses goes beyond mere companionship; it is rooted in trust, empathy, and non-verbal communication. Equine therapists facilitate the development of this bond, creating a safe and nurturing environment where individuals with disabilities can interact with horses freely. Through activities such as grooming, leading, and riding, clients learn to communicate effectively with the horses, fostering a sense of connection and empowerment.

Healing Through Connection and Empowerment

Equine therapy focuses on harnessing the healing power of the human-horse connection. As individuals engage in activities with the horses, they experience a range of emotions, from joy and excitement to patience and empathy. These interactions promote emotional regulation and social skills development, essential for individuals with disabilities to navigate daily life more effectively.

Tailored Approaches for Diverse Needs

Equine therapists employ a variety of techniques tailored to meet the unique needs of each client. Whether it’s addressing physical disabilities through therapeutic riding or enhancing emotional well-being through ground-based activities, therapists adapt their approach to ensure maximum benefit for their clients. By combining traditional therapeutic methods with the innate wisdom of horses, equine therapy offers a holistic approach to healing that encompasses the mind, body, and spirit.

How to become an equine therapist Step by Step

Equine therapists are highly skilled individuals who specialize in utilizing horses as a means to aid individuals with disabilities in their healing journey. These professionals undergo extensive training to understand not only the behavior of horses but also the intricacies of human psychology and physiology. Their expertise lies in fostering a unique bond between humans and horses, leveraging the therapeutic benefits that this bond can offer.

To become an equine therapist, one must complete a degree in their specialization and complete certification programs like Equine Interaction for Professionals. Therapists can also acquire massage education through equine or large animal massage certificate programs, associate or bachelor’s degree programs, or veterinary massage training.

Becoming an Equine Therapist: A Comprehensive Guide

Assisting Patients with Disabilities Becoming an equine therapist offers the opportunity to assist individuals with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities. Through therapeutic interactions with horses, patients can experience holistic healing and improvement.

Promoting Physical Activity and Fitness Equine therapy careers emphasize physical activity and fitness, as sessions often involve riding, grooming, and interacting with horses. This dynamic approach to therapy encourages movement and promotes overall well-being.

Varied Career Opportunities Equine therapy careers offer diverse opportunities, including training coordination, horse-related work, and patient counseling. This multifaceted role allows professionals to engage in various aspects of equine-assisted therapy.

Educational Requirements While some employers may not require a college degree, most seek candidates with a certificate or relevant training in equine therapy. Mental health professionals can enhance their skills through short graduate certificate programs, typically consisting of 15 hours of coursework.

Considerations and Challenges

  • Master’s Degree: Some positions may require a master’s degree in a related field, highlighting the importance of advanced education for certain roles.
  • Outdoor Work Environment: Equine therapists should be prepared to spend time outside in different weather conditions, including heat and humidity, as therapy sessions often take place in outdoor settings.
  • Certificate or License: Many employers require equine therapists to hold a certificate or license in equine-assisted therapy or a related field to ensure competency and professionalism.
  • Unpleasant Conditions: Work in equine therapy may involve exposure to unpleasant substances and odors commonly found in granaries and stables, necessitating a tolerance for such environments.
  • Salary Considerations: Despite the rewarding nature of the work, equine therapy careers may offer lower pay compared to national averages, particularly for roles such as Head Therapeutic Riding Instructors.

Embarking on a career in equine therapy requires dedication, compassion, and a willingness to overcome challenges in pursuit of helping others achieve healing and growth.

Equine Physical Therapist Salary

Annual Average Salary The average annual salary for Equine Physical Therapists is approximately $3,000,000,000. However, earnings increase with higher levels of certification and experience.

Top Earning Potential Equine Physical Therapists with advanced degrees, such as a doctorate in biomechanics or a veterinary degree, can earn $100,000 or more annually.

Equine Massage Therapist Salary

Salary Range Equine massage therapists in the United States earn salaries ranging from $11,641 to $308,379, with an average salary of $56,046.

Income Distribution Among equine massage therapists, 57% earn $86,046 or below, while the top 86% earn $308,379 or more out of 139,916 individuals surveyed.

Education Requirements

Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) Program To become an Equine Physical Therapist, individuals typically pursue a certificate or degree program in Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT). These programs generally require 1-2 years of full-time study.

Curriculum A typical AAT program entails completion of 60-70 credits, including internships focusing on major field subjects and liberal arts requirements. Prerequisites for enrollment usually include a high school diploma or GED.

Career Information: Equine-Assisted Therapy

Equine-assisted therapy offers holistic treatment for individuals with learning, physical, and behavioral challenges, addressing mental, physical, and emotional needs. This therapeutic approach extends to conditions like cerebral palsy, autism, and multiple sclerosis, and provides support for cancer patients.

Job Description and Duties

Role of Equine Therapists Equine therapists are professionals specializing in working with horses to facilitate therapy and comfort for patients and clients.

Facilitating Therapy Sessions They guide participants in interacting with horses, utilizing eye contact and body language to establish connections and learn tasks.

Providing Riding Lessons Equine therapists offer riding lessons as part of therapy sessions, promoting self-awareness, self-confidence, and discipline among participants.

Session Scheduling and Coordination They manage therapy session schedules, organize workshops, and oversee basic horse training activities.

Counseling and Assessment Equine therapists act as trained counselors, evaluating participants’ needs, and tailoring therapy and training sessions accordingly.

Event Planning and Fundraising In addition to therapy sessions, equine therapists may organize events, fundraisers, and certification and training programs.

Patient Care and Support Equine therapists work closely with patients from admission to discharge, providing continuous care and support. Patience, empathy, and understanding are essential qualities due to the diverse disabilities presented by patients.

Key Attributes and Skills

  • Patience and Empathy: Equine therapists must demonstrate patience and empathy when working with individuals facing various challenges.
  • Communication Skills: Effective communication with both patients and horses is vital for establishing therapeutic relationships.
  • Organizational Skills: Managing therapy schedules, events, and training programs requires strong organizational abilities.
  • Counseling Expertise: Equine therapists should possess counseling skills to assess patient needs and provide appropriate therapy interventions.
  • Equestrian Knowledge: A comprehensive understanding of horse behavior and training techniques is essential for facilitating effective equine-assisted therapy sessions.

Career Outlook and Growth

Equine-assisted therapy is a growing field with increasing recognition for its therapeutic benefits. As demand for alternative therapies continues to rise, opportunities for equine therapists are expected to expand, providing avenues for professional growth and development.

Job Prospects and Salary

Salary Range According to a report by, most equine riding instructors in medical-related fields earn between $22,000 and $52,000 annually, inclusive of bonuses, tips, and overtime pay. This data, based on a small sample group, was compiled in July 2015.

Education and Training Requirements

Bachelor’s Degree To pursue a career as an equine therapist, candidates typically need a bachelor’s degree in zoology or counseling. However, some employers may require a master’s degree for certain positions.

Undergraduate Certification Programs Several schools offer undergraduate certification programs designed for individuals with bachelor’s degrees in zoology or counseling. These programs combine coursework with practical training in equine-assisted therapy.

Course Topics Curriculum topics in equine therapy programs may include:

  • Therapeutic Riding Instruction
  • Equine Studies
  • Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International Standards and Contraindications
  • Horse Assessment
  • General Horseback Riding Techniques

Additional Training Opportunities Students may also have the opportunity to participate in seminars and workshops focused on equine therapy, providing valuable hands-on experience and further refining their skills in working with horses and clients.

how to become an equine therapist

Real Job Postings for Equine Therapists

1. Therapeutic Riding Instructor and Education Coordinator – Texas Equine Therapy Facility

  • Responsibilities:
    • Conduct riding lessons, workshops, and training courses.
    • Coordinate education programs and specialization certificates.
    • Manage duty schedules and organize special events.
  • Requirements:
    • PATH Intl. Advanced or Master certificate.
    • Experience in workshop facilitation and event management.
    • Proficiency in Microsoft Windows Suite.
  • Benefits:
    • Competitive wages and comprehensive benefits package.

2. Equine Therapist – Residential Equine Center, Utah

  • Responsibilities:
    • Perform assessments and psycho-social evaluations.
    • Develop personalized therapy plans for patients.
    • Conduct therapy sessions on a regular basis.
    • Plan patient discharge and provide post-discharge support.
  • Requirements:
    • Bachelor’s degree and minimum 4 years of experience in equine therapy.
    • Ability to work under clinical direction and independently.

3. Desert/Equine Therapist – National Child Support Organization, California

  • Responsibilities:
    • Provide equine therapy for children in residential treatment programs.
    • Conduct therapy sessions and outdoor activities.
    • Collaborate with clinical staff and support patient discharge planning.
  • Requirements:
    • Postgraduate degree in social work or related field.
    • Minimum 1 year of experience with children in residential settings.
    • Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EGALA) certificate.
    • Clear driving record and ability to pass a background check.

Additional Notes:

Top Skills for Equine Therapists

1. High-Level Organization Equine therapists must possess strong organizational skills to manage therapy schedules, coordinate sessions, and maintain detailed patient records.

2. Excellent Verbal and Written Communication Effective communication is essential for building rapport with patients, collaborating with colleagues, and conveying instructions during therapy sessions.

3. Compassion A compassionate demeanor is crucial for equine therapists to empathize with patients, understand their needs, and provide support and encouragement throughout the therapy process.

4. Interest in Working with Children and Adolescents Equine therapy often involves working with children and adolescents facing various challenges. An interest in and understanding of developmental stages and age-appropriate therapy techniques are valuable assets.

5. Comfort Working with Horses Equine therapists should have a natural affinity for and comfort working with horses. Understanding equine behavior, body language, and care practices is essential for facilitating safe and effective therapy sessions.

Equine therapy requires a unique blend of organizational, communication, interpersonal, and animal-handling skills, along with genuine compassion and a commitment to improving the well-being of patients.

Building Skills and Obtaining Certifications

EAGALA Certification Equine therapists can obtain certifications through EAGALA, a non-profit organization dedicated to equine-assisted therapy. Certification involves completing a two-part training module and submitting a personal development portfolio. Advanced certification programs are also available through EAGALA for further specialization.

PATH Intl. Certification Another avenue for certification is through PATH Intl., which offers three levels of certification for therapeutic riding instructors: Registered, Advanced, and Master. Each level of certification demonstrates proficiency in therapeutic riding instruction and equine-assisted therapy techniques.

Exploring Alternative Careers

Animal Trainer For individuals interested in working with animals but unsure about equine-assisted therapy, a career as an animal trainer may be appealing. Animal trainers have the opportunity to work with a variety of animals and typically learn through on-the-job training. Employment in this field is expected to grow, and as of May 2011, animal care and service workers earned an annual wage of around $31,000 according to the BLS. Horse Riding Accessories, Grooming, Gear, Food, Heath Treat, Care, books

Rehabilitation Counselor Those passionate about helping others but not necessarily drawn to working with animals may consider a career as a rehabilitation counselor. Rehabilitation counselors assist individuals with emotional and physical disabilities in achieving independence. While a bachelor’s degree may be sufficient for some positions, a master’s degree is more common. Licensure and certification may also be required. Employment in this field is projected to grow, with rehabilitation counselors earning around $36,000 annually as of May 2011 according to the BLS.

I hope this article on how to become an equine therapist was valuable to you.

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