Peer Reviewed/Refereed Publication
Journal of Equine Veterinary Science
Animal & Equine Science
Hutson School of Agriculture
With increasing public scrutiny on animal welfare, it behooves those involved in the equine industry to revisit best management practices to ensure these support healthy horses. There is little published research on how horses are used in the equine industry, particularly in therapeutic horseback riding (THR) programs. Although there is a large amount of information on the benefits of THR programs to the participants, there is little published information available about the horses. Therefore, the objective of this survey was to gather data regarding horse use and care in Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.)–affiliated THR programs in the United States to help establish a foundation for a standard of care. A 20-question survey sent to 659 PATH Intl.–affiliated THR programs returned a 40% response rate. Demographics demonstrated that the median number of horses in each program was 10; geldings outnumbered mares; most horses were between 16 and 20 years of age; and Quarter Horse or stock-type breeds predominated. Median session length was 8 weeks and median lesson length was 45 minutes. Horses were typically ridden by clients 4 days/week and 2 hours/day. Most horses were donated to the programs, participated for approximately 7 years, and left because of aging. Limb lameness and back soreness were the top health issues noted, with only a small percentage of colic and ulcers reported. More horses received nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for a lameness issue, chiropractic adjustment, and massage than any other supplemental care or complementary therapy. Based on data gathered in this survey, THR horses were not worked excessively. Horses were ridden less than PATH Intl.’s maximum recommendation of 6 hours/day and 6 days/week and less than those used in university programs. Horses in THR programs also appeared to have fewer reported health issues as compared with data in other national reports.
Watston, Emily; Davis, Amanda; Splan, Rebecca K.; and Porr, C.A. Shea, "Characterization of Horse Use in Therapeutic Horseback Riding Programs in the United States: A Pilot Survey" (2020). Faculty & Staff Research and Creative Activity. 71.