New equine-assisted therapy register launches with Paralympian as patron

  • A register of practitioners offering equine-assisted therapy goes live next week, with the aim of providing “credibility and meaningful standards” for the industry.

    In March 2021 H&H reported that a steering group had been formed involving organisations including the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA), Hartpury University, HorseBack UK and Sirona Therapeutic Horsemanship, with the aim of creating the voluntary Human Equine Interaction Register (HEIR). A consultation followed, with which more than 200 organisations engaged, including providers, funders and clients, and showed a “clear demand” for the register.

    Operating under the umbrella of the Federation of Horses in Education and Therapy International, HEIR will launch on 31 March and provide a place where clients, service commissioners and funders can get “information and reassurance” that the organisation offering human-equine interaction services is “credible” and works to minimum standards.

    A spokesman for the steering group said the number of human-equine interaction programmes available in the UK had increased significantly over the last decade, and the scope, size and professional backgrounds of these services “vary greatly, with “little coordination” as to standards of practice.

    To join the register practitioners and organisations must submit documents and evidence to confirm that they align with and meet five criteria: professionalism, equine welfare, service provision and service user engagement, benefits and impact, and governance.

    “The development of the register is a huge step forward in getting the field of human-equine interaction in the UK working together, building credibility with those that matter and making sure that we are all working to sensible and meaningful standards. It will take the industry forward with a giant leap,” said Ed Bracher, outgoing chief executive of RDA UK and chair of the HEIR steering group.

    Paralympic medallist Natasha Baker, who has been appointed patron of the register, said she was “excited” to watch it grow.

    “I think that coming up through RDA and benefiting not just physically, but through friendships, mixing with people with similar interests, and meeting people with different disabilities and challenges, has given me so much and without it, I wouldn’t have six gold medals to my name,” she said.

    “There are so many individuals and organisations out there that provide these services and people need to be able to find them to access the service that best suits their needs.”

    Nigel Payne of the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Trust said the organisation receives an “enormous” amount of applications for funding in which charities suggest they are “experts” in equine-assisted therapy, but said it was vital the trust knows the organisation is recognised through a form of “kitemark”.

    “This register is perfect because we would like to be able to access a database, know what they do, where they are located and that they are safe to practise,” he said.

    “This is so important as it avoids potential harm to service users and horses. As a grantmaker we need to know that they have been endorsed to be on the register.”

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