PATH Int’l Premier Accredited Center

Project R.I.D.E. Inc. is proud to be a Premier Accredited Center of Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH International), (formerly NARHA) a non-profit organization founded in 1969 which is dedicated to supporting horseback riding in a safe, educational and enjoyable manner for disabled persons. PATH International offers training seminars, provides strict standards of excellence and safety, and certifies programs and instructors to teach riding to the disabled. If you are choosing a place to ride, make sure your riding center is PATH accredited and your therapeutic riding instructor is PATH certified! Project R.I.D.E. Inc. is very proud to hold the Premier level of accreditation in PATH International, which indicates our adherence to the absolute highest standards of safety and professionalism. We are very proud to announce that our most recent re-accreditation visit in February 2018 concluded with a coveted and rare 100% perfect score. Find out more about PATH Int’l here.

PATH Core Values

PATH Intl. Core Values
Access and inclusion–
promoting diversity and opportunity in equine assisted activities
Compassion and caring–
providing a culture of safety, understanding, and ethical treatment of humans and horses engaged in equine-assisted activities
Cooperation and collaboration–
connecting and partnering with those who share the PATH Intl. vision in a mutually beneficial manner
sharing valued knowledge with our constituents to facilitate their success
promoting quality in all undertakings
encouraging and supporting creativity, inquiry and cutting-edge research
Integrity and accountability–
ensuring that all business is based on ethical principles and conducted with transparency
enhancing the value and credibility of the industry
providing effective and responsive information and programs to our constituents
promoting an awareness of body, mind and spirit in equine-assisted activities and therapies

History of PATH International
Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.), along with its dedicated members and volunteers, has been a pioneer in the field of EAAT, bringing the novel idea of therapeutic horseback riding to the United States from Europe in the middle of the twentieth century. Lis Hartel, an award-winning dressage rider from Denmark, is generally regarded as the impetus for the development of therapeutic riding in Europe. Despite being physically impaired by polio, Hartel took the silver medal in Grand Prix dressage at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, and medical and equine professionals around Europe soon began to implement programs for riding as a form of physical therapy.




Word of these events spread quickly to the United States and Canada, and therapeutic riding centers began opening in North America as well. Two of the first professional riding centers were the Community Association of Riding for the Disabled, founded by J.J. Bauer and Dr. R.E. Renaud in Toronto, Ontario; and the Cheff Center for the Handicapped, founded with the help of Lida McCowan in Augusta, Michigan.

A group of 23 forward-thinking and passionate individuals soon recognized the need for an organization to act as a clearinghouse of information about therapeutic riding, so on November 2, 1969, this group gathered at the Red Fox Inn in Middleberg, Virginia, to lay the groundwork for the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA). From these beginnings, PATH Intl., as it is now known, has grown to thousands of members across the world and expanded upon therapeutic riding to include dozens of different equine-assisted activities that benefit people with special needs. Today PATH Intl. headquarters are located in Denver, Colorado, but hundreds of volunteers from all over the country – including a few of the founding members – still help run, govern and grow the organization so it may continue to be an industry leader.

Total Center Members: 877
Premier Accredited Centers: 262
Year Founded: 1969
Mission Statement: The Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) promotes safety and optimal outcomes in equine-assisted activities and therapies for individuals with special needs.
PATH Intl. Vision Statement: PATH Intl. is the global authority, resource and advocate for equine-assisted activities and therapies and the equines in this work that inspires and enriches the human spirit.
About PATH Intl.: PATH Intl. was formed in 1969 as the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association to promote equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT) for individuals with special needs. Since that time, the association’s work to credential professionals and accredit programs has expanded, as have the categories of individuals served through EAAT. Through the work of 877 member centers and more than 4,800 instructors credentialed through PATH Intl., 62,406 children and adults, including more than 5,500 veterans, find a sense of health, wellness, independence and fun through EAAT. Member centers range from small, one-person programs to large operations with several credentialed instructors and licensed therapists. In addition to horseback riding, a center may offer any number of EAAT such as hippotherapy, carriage driving, interactive vaulting, trail riding, competition and more. Through a wide variety of educational resources, the association helps individuals start and maintain successful programs. There are 54,533 volunteers, 4,846 instructors, 7,546 equines and thousands of contributors from all over the world making a difference in people’s lives.



Most Common Diagnoses
Most Common Special Needs Served by PATH Int’l Centers (in descending order of frequency)




  • Developmental Delay or Disability
  • ADD or Other Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Learning Disability
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Down Syndrome
  • Emotional, Behavioral or Mental Health
  • Head Trauma/Brain Injury
  • Hearing Impairment
  • Visual Impairment
  • Epilepsy/Seizure Disorders
  • Alzheimer’s/Dementia
  • Genetic Conditions/Disorders
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Orthopedic
  • Youth Identified as At-Risk
  • Stroke
  • PTSD
  • Spina Bifida
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Paralysis
  • Intellectual Disability
  • Violence, Abuse or Trauma
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Amputation
  • Terminal Illness
  • Weight Control Disorders
  • Substance Abuse
2015 PATH Intl. Statistics
Total PATH Intl. Certified Professionals: 4,846
Certified Driving Instructors: 104
Certified Vaulting Instructors: 30
Certified Equine Specialists in Mental Health and Learning: 612
Total Individual Members: 8,037
Total Number of Center Employees: 3,773
Total Number of Center Volunteers: 54,533
Total Value* of Volunteer Hours $3,975,163,403
Average # of employees 5.5
Average # of volunteers 77.8
Project RIDE volunteers: approximately 150 per week
*The value of volunteer hours is based on the number of
volunteers X center reported volunteer time X $23.56 as stated
by independent sector.
Total Equines: 7,546
Horses: 5,845
Ponies: 1,165
Minis: 411
Donkeys: 106
Average # of equines: 10.7




Project RIDE Equines: Ranges between 10 and 15 at any given time.

PATH Intl. Center Members with participant waiting lists: 304
Individuals on waiting lists: 5,170

Project RIDE’s Waiting list: Approx. 185
Number of veterans served: 5,526
Total number of participants: 62,406
Average number of participants: 90.7

Project RIDE participants: approximately 540

Comparing Project RIDE
Compared to our peers, Project RIDE serves fewer seniors 65+ and more high school (11-18) and young adult (18-30) participants than the average.
More about EAAT

What Are Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapies?

Throughout the world, hundreds of thousands of individuals with and without special needs experience the rewarding benefits of equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT). A physical, cognitive or emotional special need does not limit a person from interacting with horses. In fact, such interactions can prove highly rewarding. For instance, experiencing the rhythmic motion of a horse can be very beneficial. Riding a horse moves the rider’s body in a manner similar to a human gait, so riders with physical needs often show improvement in flexibility, balance and muscle strength.

Whether it’s a five-year-old with Down syndrome, a 45-year-old recovering from a spinal cord injury, a senior citizen recovering from a stroke or a teenager struggling with depression, research shows that individuals of all ages who participate in EAAT can experience physical and emotional rewards. For individuals with emotional challenges, the unique relationship formed with the horse can lead to increased confidence, patience and self-esteem. For teams in the corporate workplace and any individual seeking better leadership, team building or communication skills, working with horses provides a powerful new paradigm.

PATH Intl. is an international voice of the EAAT industry. As the premier professional membership organization, PATH Intl. advocates for EAAT and provides standards for safe and ethical equine interaction, through education, communication, standards and research.

The Equine Partner

The Role of the Equine as Partner in EAAT

New scientific research continues to reveal critical information about equine sentience- their abilities of perception, cognition, memory, and emotions such as pain and fear. Equines are able to perceive, respond to and learn from the impressions they receive from minimal sensory stimuli. The stimulus may originate from changes in human biochemistry, body language, or vocal intonations. It can also come from changes in the equine’s environment, relationships with other equines, or the equine’s general health In this way, equines make decisions based upon the stimuli they experience from others or from their environment (Hangg, 2005; Nicol, 2002; Proops, McComb, &  Reby, 2009; Saslow, 2002). These abilities are based in natural, biological, physiological, and psychological traits of equines. Each equine is unique in personality, and has individual likes, dislikes and habits. The information gained from equine communication can be highly useful in all EAAT settings. Listening to equine communication can have an effect on the care of the equines, their rate of burnout, and the success of the human-equine interaction. In EAAT sessions or lessons, viewing the equine as a partner invites opportunities for relationship building and skill building with all participants served.

Why do we Ride?

Many different diagnoses can benefit from therapeutic riding. Below are just the more common ones that we see. If your rider has a rare diagnosis that you don’t see below, please contact us – we can work with nearly anyone with a valid medical clearance, as long as our staff feels they can safely participate.


Attention Deficit Disorder

Children with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have difficulties with attention and self control of behavior. Horseback riding requires attention to the instructor and the horse. Children who participate in a riding program will be taught sequential steps for learning to control their horse and becoming more independent. Riding lessons can be modified in length to accommodate for decreased attention span in the beginning of the program. Children with ADD or ADHD may also benefit from participation in a vaulting program at a PATH Intl. center. Vaulting requires attention and timing for approaching the horse on the lunge line as well as mounting and dismounting. In vaulting, children work in groups requiring self control and team work.


People who have experienced an amputation can be successful riders and drivers. Many para-equestrians have successfully competed with an amputation.  Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) centers are experienced in creating adaptations in equipment to accommodate for people with amputations of upper and lower extremities. Drivers can learn one-handed driving and compete in pleasure driving competitions.


Borges de Araujo, Araújo, Santana, Lopes & Franck (2006) studied the use of hippotherapy as a physical therapy strategy to improve postural steadiness in patients with lower limb amputations. Data were gathered using a platform sensor F-Mat connected to a computer before the first physical therapy session utilizing hippotherapy and after the 20th session. Results from the three participants indicated increased speed and distance post treatment.  



Children and adults with autism participate in a variety of PATH Intl. center programs including riding, driving, vaulting, hippotherapy, and equine-facilitated psychotherapy (EFP).  Both equine-assisted activities such as riding or vaulting and equine-assisted therapy such as hippotherapy or psychotherapy can impact the life of a person with autism. 

Bass, Duchowny, and Llabre (2008) studied children with autism participating in a 12 week therapeutic horseback riding  program. Two instruments were used to measure social functioning before and after the intervention: the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) and the Sensory Profile (SP). They found the children with autism who participated in the therapeutic horseback riding program improved in sensory integration and directed attention as compared to the control group.

Macauley (2007) studied children with mild, moderate and severe autism participating in a 10 week speech therapy session using hippotherapy. The children were evaluated using the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) as well as attention to task and number or session goals met. All children showed progress on at least one of the following four CARS subtests: relating to people, listening behaviors, verbal communication and nonverbal communication.

Brain Injuries
People with brain injuries can experience multiple symptoms related to their injury. They may participate in a variety of programs depending on their abilities and goals. People with a brain injury who are seeking to pursue a new recreational outlet may benefit from riding or driving programs. Participants develop skills needed to direct their equine partners through obstacles, cones courses, or on trail rides.
Cerebral Palsy
People of all ages with cerebral palsy may enjoy interacting with horses. Children can learn a sport such as riding to share with their peers. Adults may treasure riding as a life long leisure activity. Horseback riding requires skills including good posture, coordination, and balance to direct the horse. Riders with cerebral palsy may progress from riding with sidewalkers to riding independently.  Some people with cerebral palsy may prefer to learn carriage driving and may even be able to drive from their own wheelchair in a specially designed carriage.  


A large amount  of research in equine-assisted therapy has involved children with cerebral palsy.  Shurtleff, Standeven, & Engsberg (2009) measured head and trunk stability changes in children with cerebral palsy after 12 weeks of hippotherapy treatments provided by an occupational or physical therapist. The research team used a motorized barrel and video motion capture to challenge and measure the changes in motor control. The children showed very significant improvements in control of their trunks and heads at the end of the intervention period and maintained improvements after a 12 week period without treatment.

Cerebrovascular Accident (Stroke)

Cerebrovascular Accident/Stroke 

 People who have experienced a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or stroke may experience challenges from deficits resulting from the area of the brain affected by the stroke. Examples of deficits include loss of the use of a limb such as an arm/hand, difficulty finding or understanding words, or  balance problems. PATH Intl. centers offer a variety of programs to work with these challenges and those who have had a CVA may benefit from an enjoyable physical activity involving horses. They can learn to ride or drive with one hand or may use an adapted rein on their weaker side. Riding in a group is a great shared social experience as well as opportunity to interact with horses.



People who are deaf or hard of hearing may experience improved self-esteem and a sense of independence and empowerment by becoming an independent equestrian. People with hearing impairments will develop unique ways to communicate with their instructor and equine partner while learning riding or driving. 

Developmental Delay

Developmental Delay/Cognitive Delay

PATH Intl. centers are able to provide a variety of recreational programs that reflect personal preferences and choices for the person with developmental delays. Learning horseback riding skills includes leisure and recreational activities alone and with others, riding socially with others, taking turns, extending the time of the riding lesson and expanding one’s repertoire of skills towards independent riding. Some persons may choose to compete in programs such as the Special Olympics.



Bass, M. M., Duchowny, C. A., & Llabre, M. M. (2009). The effect of therapeutic horseback riding on social functioning in children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 39(9), 1261-1267. doi:10.1007/s10803-009-0734-3 (published single research study)

Borges de Araujo, T., Araújo, R., Santana, L. A., Lopes, M., & Franck, C. R. (2006). Use of hippotherapy as physiotherapy strategy treatment in improvement for postural steadiness in patient with lower limb amputated: A pilot study. Paper presented at the 12th International Congress of Therapeutic Riding, Brazil. Paper retrieved from (oral presentation of single research project)

Champagne, D., & Dugas, C. (2010). Improving gross motor function and postural control with hippotherapy in children with Down syndrome: Case reports. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, 26(8), 564-571. (published descriptive report)  

Lechner, H. E.,  Kakebeeke, T. H.,  Hegemann, D., & Baumberger, M. (2007). The effect of hippotherapy on spasticity and on mental well-being of persons with spinal cord injury. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 88(10), 1241-1248. doi:10.1016/j.apmr.2007.07.015 (published single research study)

Macauley, B. (2007, April). Effects of equine movement on attention and communication in children with autism. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Hippotherapy Association, Atlanta, Georgia. (oral presentation of single research project)

Shurtleff, T. L., Standeven, J. W., & Engsberg, J. R. (2009). Changes in dynamic trunk/head stability and functional reach after hippotherapy. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 90, 1185-1195. doi:10.1016/j.apmr.2009.01.026 (published single research study)

Silkwood-Sherer, D., & Warmbier, H. (2007). Effects of hippotherapy on postural stability, in persons with Multiple Sclerosis: A pilot study. Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy, 31(2), 77-84. doi:10.1097/NPT.0b013e31806769f7 (published single research study)

Note: Following each reference citation is the type of evidence. In this set of references, the highest type of evidence is a published single research study, followed by a published descriptive report, and then an oral presentation of a single research project. Type of evidence is important and is a factor for consideration for evidence-based practice.

Down Syndrome (Down's Syndrome)
Children and adults with Down syndrome may participate in equine-assisted activities or equine-assisted therapy if atlantioaxial instability (AAI) has been ruled out with current x-rays and/or the participant has no signs or symptoms of this condition per their physician.  


Champagne and Dugas (2010) provided 11 weeks of hippotherapy to two children with Down Syndrome and measured changes in postural control.  The Gross Motor Function Measure (GMFM) and accelerometry were the instruments used to measure. Improvements in gross motor behavior (particularly walking, running, and jumping) were revealed by the GMFM. The overall accelerometry data demonstrated interesting adaptive responses to the postural challenges induced by the horse.

Developmental Delay
Many people with emotional disabilities are able to enjoy equine based programs that promote physical activity and social interaction. PATH Intl. programs are designed for safety and close supervision as well as fun, interesting activities.
Emotional Disabilities
Many people with emotional disabilities are able to enjoy equine based programs that promote physical activity and social interaction. PATH Intl. programs are designed for safety and close supervision as well as fun, interesting activities.
Learning Disabilities
Participants in a PATH Intl. program are presented information about riding and driving skills and horsemanship in a variety of methods.  People with learning disabilities have the chance to learn through visual, auditory, and kinesthetic methods while learning to ride or drive a horse. They may be motivated to learn more about horses then they are in their school classroom. The horse’s response to the aids given by the rider or driver is natural positive reinforcement and helps participants build skills.  
Multiple Sclerosis
Therapeutic riding can be a great source of exercise in which people with multiple sclerosis may choose to participate. They can participate in riding within their limits of strength and energy and still enjoy an active recreational activity or sport. Riding may help people with multiple sclerosis stay limber and active.


Silkwood-Sherer and Warmbier (2007) studied the effects of hippotherapy on postural stability in persons with multiple sclerosis. They found that the group receiving hippotherapy (9 adults) demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in balance as measured by the Berg Balance Scale (BBS) and Tinetti Performance Oriented Mobility Assessment (POMA) following 7 weeks of hippotherapy intervention. The comparison group consisting of 6 adults showed no improvement in balance. A between group difference in the BBS scores by 14 weeks was noted, thus suggesting that improvements in the intervention group may have been caused by the hippotherapy treatments. None of the subjects in either the intervention or comparison groups participated in other forms of rehabilitation during the study.

Muscular Dystrophy
People with muscular dystrophy may participate in programs at PATH Intl. centers to keep active while engaging in an enjoyable activity. Riders may start out more independent, but may need more support as their disease progresses. Riding lessons may be tailored to the abilities and stamina of the rider. The PATH Intl. instructor may support their transition to a non-mounted program such as driving or a hippotherapy program as their needs change. This flexibility helps the person with muscular dystrophy stay active and engaged while coping with changes in their abilities.
Spina Bifida
Participants with spina bifida may participate in equine-assisted activities or therapies at a PATH Intl. center. Prior to participation, the client’s doctor will need to carefully screen the participant for concerns such as tethered cord, hydromyelia or Chiari II malformation. Any changes in neurological status must be carefully monitored during participation in riding programs. Learning to ride or a horse may be an empowering experience and allow someone with limited mobility from spina bifida to experience a greater freedom on the back of a horse.
Spinal Cord Injuries
People who have had a spinal cord injury may have varied levels of impairments from sensory loss to quadriplegia. A complete spinal cord injury above T-6 is a contraindication for riding, but would not necessarily prevent a client’s participation in other types of equine programs such as driving and unmounted activities. Many people who have had a spinal cord injury may participate in therapeutic riding lessons, carriage driving or may choose an equine-assisted therapy program to address challenges with trunk control or coping with their injury.  


Lechner, Kakebeeke, Hegemann, and Baumberger (2007) conducted research to determine the effect of hippotherapy on spasticity and mental well-being of persons with spinal cord injury (SCI).Spasticity was measured by the Ashworth Scale and subjects’ self-rating on a visual analogue scale. Well-being was measured by subjects’ self-report on the well-being scale Befindlichkeits-Skala of von Zerssen. The  researchers found that only the effect of hippotherapy reached significance for clinically rated spasticity compared with the control condition (without intervention). Immediate improvements in the subjects’ mental well-being were detected only after hippotherapy.

Visual Impairment
People who have a visual impairment are able to learn to ride or drive independently and compete in equestrian events. People with visual impairments may participate as part of a vaulting team. Strategies to help people with visual impairments include use of intercom systems with the instructors, learning to count steps/strides, or auditory markers in the arena. These strategies are frequently used at PATH Intl. centers and both instructors and horses are able to accommodate and accept the rider or driver’s differences.  

Just for Kids?

Because most children are naturally attracted to horses, many people think therapeutic riding is a child’s activity. This graph shows that all ages are represented in PATH International programs.

Questions? Comments? Please reach out.

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