Hartpury joins fellow organisations to launch equine-assisted therapy register

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Hartpury University has joined forces with organisations including the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA), HorseBack UK and Sirona Therapeutic Horsemanship to create a voluntary Human Equine Interaction Register (HEIR) that will provide greater credibility for those providing human-equine interaction services. HEIR is in response to widespread industry demand.

The register of practitioners that offer equine-assisted therapy will launch on 31 March, with the goal of providing “credibility and meaningful standards” for the industry.

To join the register organisations and practitioners will need to submit documents and evidence to confirm that they align with the five criteria: professionalism, equine welfare, service provision and service user engagement, benefits and impact, and governance.

Rosie Scott-Ward, Pro Vice-Chancellor at Hartpury University, said: “Following on from the creation of a steering group back in March 2021 that consulted more than 200 organisations, it was clear that there was a demand for a register like this.

“The register will help to unite a growing and vitally important sector that connects the health and wellbeing of both horses and humans. While there’s a long and exciting journey ahead, we’re privileged to have played a role in the conception of this register and look forward to its evolution for the greater good of all involved.”

Ed Bracher, outgoing chief executive of RDA UK and chair of the HEIR steering group, said: “The development of the register is a huge step forward in getting the field of human-equine interaction in the UK working together, building credibility with those that matter and making sure that we are all working to sensible and meaningful standards. It will take the industry forward with a giant leap.”

Paralympic medallist and regular competitor at the NAF Five Star Hartpury Festival of Dressage, Natasha Baker, has been appointed patron of the register. She told Horse & Hound: “I think that coming up through RDA and benefiting not just physically, but through friendships, mixing with people with similar interests, and meeting people with different disabilities and challenges, has given me so much and without it, I wouldn’t have six gold medals to my name,” she said.

“There are so many individuals and organisations out there that provide these services and people need to be able to find them to access the service that best suits their needs.”

Nigel Payne of the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Trust said the organisation receives an “enormous” number of applications for funding in which charities suggest they are “experts” in equine-assisted therapy, but said it was vital the trust knows the organisation is recognised through a form of “kitemark”.

“This register is perfect because we would like to be able to access a database, know what they do, where they are located and that they are safe to practise,” he said.

Hartpury University is involved in several major research projects and industry initiatives across the equine industry including the production of Guidelines for safe and effective use of Equine Water Treadmills, providing an evidence-base for para-dressage athlete classification (with the University of Central Lancashire) and an industry-wide survey of saddlery fit issues in collaboration with the Society of Master Saddlers.

With welfare of horse and rider front and centre of the equine industry, Hartpury’s new MSc Equitation Science arrives at a particularly important time, sitting alongside the Postgraduate Certificate Equine Behaviour and Welfare, for those students wishing to integrate advanced science with the field of welfare. The programme will consider the various needs of both human and equine, using science as a basis for successful and ethical equitation. Hartpury University was ranked number one in the UK for student satisfaction by full-time postgraduate students in the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey 2021.

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