Around the Arena: Equine-Assisted Services' Foundation in Understanding Human-Horse Interactions

Document Type

Contribution to Books

Publication Date


Publication Title

The Routledge International Handbook of Human-Animal Interactions and Anthrozoology


Horses and humans have moved together throughout history since their domestication 6,000 years ago. Though weighing an average of 1,000 pounds, horses create a purposeful therapeutic space where their size aids participants in understanding and guiding their personal power and serving as a metaphor for moving beyond the large challenges in life. Working with horses requires a recognition of one’s own mental health state and emotional capacity for their own well-being, and that of their horse partner. When working with horses in a therapeutic modality, it is the mental health clinician and/or equine professional’s responsibility to aid participants in identifying, naming, and managing, the current state of being while engaging with a horse. This chapter will explore the unique therapeutic space and opportunities presented by equine interaction, the history of horse-human interaction, and the professionalization of equine-assisted services (EAS). The chapter concludes by summarizing ongoing research efforts to understand mechanisms of change within EAS, and posits future directions for research and practice.