Rhona Harkness (nee Young)
Advanced Occupational Therapist
Sensory Integration Practitioner
Equine Assisted Therapist
Working in collaboration with horses and their environment is a fast growing therapeutic approach within the UK, and indeed Worldwide for Occupational Therapists (OTs) and other professions. OTs currently refer to this field as Equine Assisted Activities and Therapy (EAAT). There are many aspects within this field that can be used by therapists to provide therapy. These can include Hippotherapy, Riding as a Sport, Horse Riding as Therapy, Vaulting, Carriage Driving, the Horse Environment (Harkness, 2014, Young, 2005) and more recently we have seen the development of therapists using Groundwork.
EAAT offers fantastic opportunities to assess and provide intervention for sensory based challenges. As an OT working in this field, knowledge and further training in sensory integration has been very beneficial to the therapeutic process thus including more successful partnerships with the horses we use in therapy.
Horses perceive the world around them using the same senses as we do, yet the senses of the horse have different capabilities and are used in different ways. Without this understanding, we may not yield the best from our horses, and as a consequence, we may therefore limit our potential as therapists in gaining the most effective outcomes for patients. Understanding how horses function from a sensory perspective enables therapists to provide a more powerful therapeutic experience for the patient as we can provide the just right challenge with the right horse.
If you would like to find out more about EAAT, please feel free to contact me. We have a closed group on Facebook called OTs Working in Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies. Please see the link below.
We are currently developing a website where we will hold a database of research and current best practice for members to access.
Harkness, RL (2014) Equestrian Vaulting: A Sport and a Therapeutic Tool OT News June
Young RL (2005) Horsemastership part 1: Therapeutic components and link to occupational therapy International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation Vol. 12, No 2, pp78-83