About EAAT

Horses have long been associated in our imaginations with heroic tales of knights on horseback and cowboys riding into the sunset.  They have a unique ability to connect with humans and we humans react to a horse’s energy, strength and perceptiveness. It would seem that Winston Churchill was right…”there is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

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.  So whether it is a five year old with autism, a veteran dealing with PTSD, or a senior citizen battling dementia, research shows that individuals of all ages who participate in EAAT can experience physical and emotional rewards through the unique relationship formed with the horse that can lead to increased confidence, mobility and self-esteem.

Programs offered by Full Circle under the umbrella term of EAAT may have a specific orientation or draw from several concentrations depending upon the needs of the individual.  Programs such as V.E.T.T. (veteran equine transition therapy) specifically for veterans may include therapeutic horsemanship and equine assisted psychotherapy (EAP).  Monthly field trips for individuals with Alzheimer’s and their care-givers would fall under the equine assisted learning (EAL) concentration, while our weekly group lessons for adults with special needs from ARC and Jawonio participate in a combined concentration of therapeutic riding and equine assisted learning. As part of a workshop, children in grief counseling through United Hospice of Rockland’s Healing Hearts program participate in a full day of EAAT that combines therapeutic riding, equine assisted learning and equine assisted psychotherapy.


Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies (EAAT) recognize the quality of life issues facing persons with special needs. EAAT influence the whole person and have an effect on all of the body’s systems providing an ideal method of providing alternatives to traditional methods of treatment and a meaningful recreation alternative for people with varying disabilities.

Full Circle’s programs offer concentrations in several different areas of need. Each area encompasses specific goals and techniques, may be appropriate for certain individuals, and requires different professional personnel. Yet all areas overlap, complement and support each other, so an individual riding for sport or recreation also receives valuable physical and psychological benefits. Regardless of the concentration Full Circle assembles a core team consisting of the participant/client, the horse (chosen for its size and temperament), volunteers (trained as side walkers and horse leaders), licensed therapist, and a certified instructor. Whatever the goals are for a particular lesson, or whatever the orientation is of a particular therapy team, the ultimate goal is to maximize each person’s functional potential. Perception of accomplishment and joy in achievement go hand in hoof when having a horse as a friend!


In Therapeutic Horsemanship, children and adults with special needs come together with their team to experience a recreational activity. Therapeutic Riding is taught as an adapted sport where participants learn the rules of a sport, the techniques of horsemanship, and methods of controlling their bodies to make the human and horse interaction meaningful. For individuals with impaired mobility, riding rhythmically moves their bodies in a manner similar to a human walking gait contributing to increased balance, mobility, coordination and physical strength. While mastering the skills necessary to ride successfully, attention, concentration, learning and verbal skills are further enhanced. The result is the combination of learning a rewarding activity while attaining the best physical and functional levels possible. Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) is an approach to human development through horsemanship. Participants engage in non-riding activities and learn alternate skills to draw from when faced with challenges. In recognizing a horse’s ability to read and understand human body language EAL can provide insights into the physical manifestations of any inner conflicts and a pathway to change the “inside” by changing the “outside” in a process we call barnyard bio feedback. The lesson is that the horse is doing exactly what the human body is telling them to do and if they change themselves, the horse responds differently. The size of the horse also offers an opportunity for some to overcome fear and develop confidence.


Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT), which includes Hippotherapy, is the use of a horse by physical, occupational, or speech therapists as an integrated strategy to treat specific neuromusculoskeletal dysfunctions in a non-clinical setting. By providing multidimensional movement and a dynamic base of support, the horse becomes an invaluable tool when facilitating improvement of core strength, motor control, balance, posture, endurance, motor planning, receptive/expressive language, sensory processing and attention skills. By modulating the horse’s movement, a therapist can elicit various responses from their client. A therapeutic riding instructor is also present to assist the therapist in achieving the desired movements of the horse for an effective treatment session. When a client improves their functional abilities and their motivation is high, an ideal opportunity is presented to transition that client to a therapeutic riding program where the learning of “real” riding skills can add a new and exciting dimension to their lives.


Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) involves equine activities as part of a psychotherapy session conducted by a licensed mental health counselor in collaboration with an equine specialist in mental health and learning. The focus of EAP is the client’s reactions and behaviors through the process of interacting with the horse. EAP can be used to better deal with trauma and loss, develop a sense of self, increase levels of trust, establish boundaries and create awareness of the needs of living creatures through responsible care of the horse.