Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Design Studies

Committee Chair

Dennis K. Smith.


This dissertation is composed of three essays in which each carefully examines an important aspect of the field of equine assisted activities and therapies (EAAT). In the first essay, I review how equine assisted activities and therapies should be considered as an early intervention to help facilitate communication skills in children with autism. The majority of participants in NARHA programs have autism, and therefore it is critical to appraise the validity of EAAT as a positive intervention. Respondents of NARHA centers to a survey on their use of assessments in tracking the progress of their participants indicated that only 7% of centers utilized assessment forms specifically for autism. Research in the effects of EAAT on children with autism is extremely limited. NARHA centers that are seeing success with EAAT as an intervention for communication disorders should be more vigilant in documenting their results in a meaningful way.;The second essay explores the educational aspects of the field of equine assisted activities and therapies. College and universities are trying to meet the demand of students to provide curricula for training and instructor certification. This demand cannot be met unless the curricula are carefully designed and partnerships are in place with NARHA member centers. Of the NARHA centers responding to a survey, 41% currently had a partnership or affiliation with a college or university. 11% had direct involvement with a college or university EAAT curriculum. The relationships between NARHA centers and colleges and universities should be developed in order to offer quality services by the professionals involved in the EAAT field, and appropriate curricula by the colleges and universities.;The final essay examines developing procedures for therapeutic riding instructors and centers to measure participant progress and outcomes. This is important in terms of proving the success of their programming. The validity of their efforts needs to be shown to medical professionals, families and insurance companies for referral and reimbursement purposes. A survey conducted in 2009 of NARHA Premier Accredited Centers showed a diversity of record keeping and types of assessments. Written assessments were used by 46% of the centers, 35% of the respondents used checklists, and 17.6% used scoring methods. The range of sizes and programming for NARHA centers may inhibit the possibilities for producing an assessment form that is universally useful for therapeutic riding instructors and centers. However, an attempt should be made to develop a format that all centers can use simply and efficiently to allow improvement and efficiency of rider assessments.