An assessment of equine assisted growth learning association and professional association of therapeutic horsemanship programs in Montana
Prechter, Amy Kristine
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In Montana, there are a limited number of programs offering equine assisted services. Equine assisted therapies and learning activities are gaining popularity as a modern, alternative form of human therapy and learning. Services may include equine assisted or facilitated psychotherapy, equine assisted or facilitated learning, and therapeutic riding. Professional associations such as PATH Intl. and EAGALA have become the industry standards and paved the way for program development and growth. This study examined the structure of Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) and the Professional Association of Therapeutic Riding International (Path Intl.) programs in Montana. The study also described factors and experiences that influence these programs and a professional logic model was developed based on results. Six individual case studies were conducted to describe and assess the structure of EAGALA and PATH Intl. programs in Montana. Four individual cases within Montana as well as the two national associations were examined. This qualitative case study utilized a series of interviews and the collection of unobtrusive data from each case. Content analysis was used to analyze and code the data into common themes. Data were further analyzed within and across-cases to develop common classification themes (Creswell, 2013; Hatch, 2002; Yin, 2009 ). Findings revealed there is an increasing demand for quality, professional equine therapy programs in Montana. To implement and maintain programs, several common needs were identified across cases including assistance in marketing and promotion of programs, training on business planning and management practices, improved access to funding and capital resources, and building communication and networking opportunities between programs and within communities. To better meet these needs, national associations must provide more continuing education, workshops and trainings, and develop curriculum and educational resources for local programs. The conclusions confirmed that programs must be structured and maintained using high professional standards in accordance with national association guidelines to offer quality services. A logic model was developed based on findings to assist programs in creating this professional framework. By doing so, program directors and national associations can continue to create and expand impactful programs for all populations.