Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship

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Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.), formerly the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) is a non-profit organization based in Denver, Colorado that promotes the benefits of therapeutic horseback riding and other equine-assisted activities and therapies for people with physical, emotional and learning disabilities.

PATH Intl. is a 501(c)(3) organization.

The PATH Intl. mission statement: “The Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) promotes safety and optimal outcomes in equine-assisted activities and therapies for individuals with special needs.”

The association was originally formed in 1969 as the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) to promote equine-assisted activities for individuals with disabilities. The name was changed in July 2011 to better reflect the mission of and the people served by PATH Intl. With more than 860 member centers, a total of nearly 62,000 children and adults, including more than 4,000 veterans, find a sense of independence through involvement with horses. These member centers range from small, one-person programs to large operations with several riding instructors. In addition to horseback riding, a center may offer any number of equine-assisted activities and therapies such as driving, vaulting, trail riding, competition, hippotherapy, equine-facilitated psychotherapy, groundwork, and stable management. Through a wide variety of educational resources, the association helps individuals start and maintain successful programs. There are more than 55,300 volunteers, 4,666 instructors, 7,672 program equines, and thousands of contributors from all over the world making a difference in people’s lives at PATH Intl. centers.[1]

PATH Intl. provides opportunities for people with varying ability levels to challenge themselves physically and emotionally and to set goals to improve their quality of life via the horse. Training instructors and equine specialists to support and facilitate this process, accrediting centers to ensure safety, educating the public about the positive impact of the human/animal bond and setting standards for safe and effective equine-assisted activities and therapies are part of PATH Intl. long-range goals.

PATH Intl. benefits[edit]

Center accreditation[edit]

Center accreditation programs ensure high quality and safe provision of equine assisted activities offered by PATH centers across the U.S. and Canada. Just as other professions use accreditation and licensing systems to improve the well-being of their industries, professionals in the field of equine assisted activities have a distinction of their own through the Premier Accredited Center Program. The Premier Accredited Center (PAC) Program, give centers the chance to demonstrate their excellence in providing quality equine assisted activities.

This voluntary process recognizes PATH Intl. centers that have met established industry standards. The accreditation process is a peer review system in which trained volunteer site visitors inspect and review centers in accordance with PATH standards. A center that meets the accreditation requirements based on the administrative, facility, program and applicable special interest standards becomes a Premier Accredited Center (PAC) for a period of five years.

Instructor certification/education[edit]

PATH Intl. provides certification for riding, driving and vaulting instructors as well as for equine specialists in mental health and learning. Registered, Advanced and Master level certification are available for riding instructors. Instructors who teach at PATH Intl. Member Centers are required to achieve PATH Intl. Instructor Certification status. Instructors may apply for any level of certification that they feel they are qualified to achieve, as long as the application criteria for that level are met. The criteria at each level details the skills and knowledge an instructor of that level must have regarding Equine Management, Horsemanship, Instruction, Teaching Methodology and Disabilities. All evaluations of instructor applications, at all three levels, regardless of certification method, are based on these criteria.

PATH Intl. also supports regional conferences for continuing education and hosts a national conference each year.

PATH Intl. Strides[edit]

All members of PATH Intl. receive PATH Intl. Strides four times a year. The magazine is an accurate industry journal that focuses on the work of PATH Intl. Rider profiles, how-to articles, editorials and instructional columns seek to educate a general readership of the diverse aspects of equine assisted activities. Each seasonal issue carries a theme.

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