A register of practitioners offering equine-assisted therapy (EAT) is due to launch in spring, as consultation shows “clear demand” for such a service.
Plans to create the voluntary Human Equine Interaction Register (HEIR) for those offering EAT were announced in March last year, with the aim of providing governance and credibility across the industry (news, 18 March 2021). A working party, made up of organisations including the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA), Hartpury College, HorseBack UK, and Sirona Therapeutic Horsemanship, held a consultation, which engaged more than 200 organisations including providers, funders and clients.
The online register, which is due to launch in March, will be under the umbrella of the Federation of Horses in Education and Therapy International (HETI), a not-for-profit organisation that facilitates collaborations between organisations and individuals offering equine-assisted activities and therapies.
Practitioners and organisations will be asked to submit specified documents to confirm they have certain standards in place, for example evidence of insurance cover, qualifications, and policies and training, which will be verified before applicants are included on the register.
It is proposed the register will be governed by an independent committee of guardians on behalf of the sector, including HETI committee members, funders, and providers from representative disciplines.therapy ponies
Outgoing RDA chief executive Ed Bracher, who chairs the HEIR working party, told H&H the consultation provided useful feedback and demonstrated a “clear demand” for the register.
“We’ve picked up a really strong desire for people to work together more. A big part of what we set out to achieve is to help everybody improve standards and service delivery, and ultimately improve the experience for the people we’re here to support,” he said.
“If we can do that in a way where everybody is willing to collaborate, that’s a really good thing and the more we can use the register to promote that, the better.”
Sirona Therapeutic Horsemanship chair of trustees Sarah Urwin told H&H the field of EAT has been growing in the UK since around 2000 and said there is an “absolute need” for the register.
“There has been no industry structure or national occupational standards, so EAT could be interpreted and applied in terms of treatments in any way somebody saw fit,” she said.
“EAT, equine-assisted learning, and equine-assisted activities are all a little bit different and it’s not clear to many service commissioners what the differences are, and what qualifications practitioners need to deliver them. An unconscious incompetence has arisen, which is a real shame because it’s an amazing way of working with people, but it’s potentially quite dangerous if you don’t have clarity.
“By creating the register we’re trying to gently introduce some framework so the service commissioners, the people receiving the services, and those delivering have more understanding and we can properly look at service outcomes.”
Mary and Foal Sanctuary chief executive Sarah Jane Williamson, who also helps facilitate the south-west practitioners network – a group of organisations that provide EAT around Devon and Cornwall – told H&H the consultation was “very positive”.
“The organisations really welcomed that a register was in development and that it will clarify standards of good practice,” she said. “It will allow practitioners to share information on what good practice is, particularly around the welfare of horses involved in human-equine interactions.”
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