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By Bettina Shultz-Jobe (with a ton of help from Kate Naylor and Laura McFarland!)

 

This data is accurate, to the very best of our knowledge as of 09/07/2022. As we are made aware of changes or get better information, we will update this page.

 

Interested in becoming certified to offer Equine Assisted Services?

 

When it comes to getting certified in Equine Assisted Services, you have a LOT of choices. All of the programs offer something unique and the decision about which certification to pursue is a very personal (and, at times, daunting) one.  As the field grows, there are more and more really wonderful options for learning.  Unfortunately, it is not easy to compare the different programs side-by-side so you can make a decision on which one is truly best for you.  It’s a bit like. . . comparing apples to oranges, if you will. 

It is our priority that you find, and create, the path that is right for you. That may mean you choose one of Natural Lifemanship’s certification paths, or it may mean you choose one of the other programs in this field. Our goal with this comparison is not to sway you to one program or another, but to give you a snapshot of what’s out there. Of course we’re biased, but customers regularly ask us for this comparison. In this light, we’ve taken a deep look at six major EAS certification programs that exist in the United States today and compared and contrasted each program so that you can examine the options and make an informed decision.  

There is certainly a lot of subjectivity when it comes to choosing the program that is right for you, but our intention with this blog was to stick to the facts.  It is our hope that this detailed look at where each program excels and who benefits most from each of the programs will free you up to listen to your body, mind, and soul as you make an embodied and integrated decision.      

 

How did we choose which EAS certification programs to include?

 

Above all, we chose organizations that we regularly hear our students talking about. 

Additionally, most of the organizations we chose have been around for a long time.  We did choose a couple up and coming organizations because we’ve heard great things about their offerings from our students and are familiar with and have great respect for their founders.  Five of the six organizations we chose offer an official certification. It was our intention to include the most reputable certifications available on the market.   

This list is definitely not exhaustive.  This research took a lot of time, and truth be told, choosing which organizations to include was a somewhat challenging process because there are a number of great options available in our field today.  Please keep in mind that there are many fabulous places to learn and people to learn from that do not offer certifications.     

 

So Then, Why Certification?

 

While certification is not legally required to offer Equine Assisted Services to the public, a certification process is by far more impactful and informative than a single training. Most certifications require a certain amount of learning, paired with a number of practice hours and mentoring that will take your practice to the next level, and support you in offering services ethically. 

Take a look at our previous blog, Ten Things You Need to Know When Choosing an Equine Assisted Therapy and Learning Certification, to get a better idea of some of the qualities of a good certification process, to help you make – the more subjective part of – your decision.  

But not all certification paths are for everyone. In the charts below we have outlined information that can be gathered from each organization’s website.  We have done our best to give you accurate information and will make changes as new or different information is made available to us.   

Below you will find language from each organization’s websites on how they identify their mission/vision and general approach:

PATH (Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship) Intl: “PATH Intl. accredits centers and certifies professionals so participants can experience the best and safest services in the EAS industry. [PATH works] to ensure universal recognition of professional equine-assisted services and the transformative impacts that enrich lives.”

AHCB (American Hippotherapy Certification Board):  “The American Hippotherapy Certification Board (AHCB) endorses the concept of voluntary, periodic certification by examination for all professionals who use hippotherapy in their practice”

EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association): “The Eagala Model provides an innovative solution that provides a unique space for an emotionally safe, hands-on experience for clients. With real-time feedback, clients are able to reach issues where traditional talk-based therapies leave off.”

University of Denver: ”The Equine-Assisted Mental Health Practitioner Certificate program is open to mental health professionals and graduate students who want to enhance their clinical work through incorporating equine interactions in psychotherapy (equine-assisted therapy).”

The HERD Institute: “[The HERD Institute works] to create a global community of students and practitioners for Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy and Learning, committed to furthering the work of the predecessors in our field.”

The Natural Lifemanship Institute: NL envisions a world where connection is seen and felt in everything we do. We help people and animals form relationships to overcome stress and trauma through both the art and science of interpersonal neurobiology and attachment.

 

Here are the certifications offered through these 6 major programs…

 

Equine Assisted Therapy and Learning Certification Programs

 

 

PATH

 

Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning (ESMH) in partnership with a therapist

Therapeutic Riding (TR) Instructor

*Therapeutic Driving Instructor

*Interactive Vaulting Instructor

 

AHCB

 

AHCB Hippotherapy Certification

 

EAGALA

 

Mental Health Professional Certification

Equine Specialist Certification

Other Professional Certification

 

University of Denver

 

Equine Assisted Mental Health Practitioner Certificate 

(a one time process; not technically a certification)

 

Herd Institute

 

Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy Certification

Equine Facilitated Learning – Level 1

Equine Facilitated Learning – Level 2

As you can see, none of the programs are exactly alike. What each one offers varies quite a bit depending on the specific population they serve and their own sense of what is necessary and valuable for those wanting to enter the field. Nonetheless, we’ve tried to distill down the distinguishing aspects.  We hope it is helpful! 

*Moving forward in this article we will only reference the Equine Specialist and Therapeutic Riding Instructor Certification as it relates to PATH because these are the certifications most of our students are interested in when comparing them to NL. 

 

 

Who is eligible for these programs?

 

PATH

 

No education level is required to be a Therapeutic Riding Instructor or the equine expert in partnership with a therapist (mental health, occupational, physical, speech, etc.)

 

AHCB

 

Licensed or certified to practice as a:

Physical therapist,

physical therapist assistant,

occupational therapist,

occupational therapist assistant,

or speech and language pathologist

*one year of full time or the equivalent (2,000 hours) experience in this field is required

 

EAGALA

 

*Mental Health Professionals 

*Equine Professionals 

*must be partnered

A third option is available for other students or professionals (must be a third partner to MH and ES)

 

University of Denver

 

Mental Health Professionals 

Mental Health Graduate Students

 

Herd Institute

 

Mental Health professionals

Life coaches

Educators

Organizational Leaders 

Trainers

Human Resource Professionals

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

Mental Health professionals

Life Coaches

Educators

Equine Professionals

Non-MH Therapists like PT, OT, etc.

Alternative Healing Practitioners

Anyone interested in trauma-informed practice (medical professionals, corporate, HR, etc)

The difference from program to program on who is eligible for training depends on program philosophy as well as training content – while some programs prefer to specialize in only training mental health professionals or other licensed therapists, others have expanded to include any professional who is equipped to work with people in a healing or learning format, and their training content reflects these decisions. 

Most programs seek candidates who are already a helping or learning professional and are qualified to counsel. Then the training offered is in how to incorporate horses into these services.  Note that there are only a couple programs who seek to certify equine professionals to co-facilitate with a practitioner. 

When searching for a program, it can be helpful to first find your profession in the list above – any program that doesn’t list your profession is not well equipped to prepare you for the work, and any program claiming to train a variety of practitioners likely offers quite a bit of substance in their teaching, working to create competence no matter your background. 

How are their trainings and certification requirements offered?

 

PATH

 

In-person + online exam

 

AHCB

 

Blended (online and in person) + online exam

 

EAGALA

 

In-person (a short webinar is watched prior to in-person training)

 

University of Denver

 

Blended (online and in person)

 

Herd Institute

 

Blended (online and in person)

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

Blended (online and in person)

Fully Online

Learning to offer quality equine assisted services requires a blend of theory and practice, in the chart above you can see that each program has its own way of making learning possible for a variety of candidates. Online programs offer flexibility and time to digest learning, and in-person learning gives participants time to practice and experience the process.  

As you can see, Natural Lifemanship has the only fully online certification program at this time, but it’s important to know there is still a significant amount of hands-on practice that occurs. The difference is it is done at home with horses you have access to personally, and is supported by video consultations and review so you never have to leave home. 

When searching for a program, consider your personal learning style, and how you might best digest the information presented at a training.

What are the general requirements for each certification process?

 

PATH

 

TR: 

Membership

Portfolio

Video demonstration

Standards Exam & Certification Exam

TR practice hours

TR workshop

ESMH:

Membership

ESMH workshop

Horsemanship Skills Test

20 hours Equine education

ESMH practice hours

 

AHCB

 

Introduction to Equine Skills Online Course

American Hippotherapy Association (AHA) Level I and II equine skills and treatment principle courses (in-person)

25 hours of one-on-one direct patient treatment

Must be experienced and comfortable with horses and can ride safely and independently at the walk and trot. 

Certification Exam

 

EAGALA

 

Pre-req webinar

Fundamentals training (5 days in-person) 

Membership

Professional Portfolio

Exam

 

University of Denver

 

Online course (10 months)

3 Residential Workshops 

Supervised Client Work

50 hours additional training outside of DU

 

Herd Institute

 

For EFP: 

Online modules

Live webinars

In-person practicums 

Supervision

personal therapy 

20 hours Equine education

Clinical practice

For each EFL level:

Online modules

In-person intensive

Mentoring

Practice hours (L2 only)

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

Fundamentals training (8 weeks online, 36 CE’s )

Intensive Training (15 weeks online, 62 CE’s)

Optional Practicums (5 days in-person)

At least 28 hours of group and individual consultation and mentoring

Video Submissions and Feedback

60 Client Hours/Practice

Membership

There is wide variation in what each program offers in terms of learning, and requires in terms of certification – it is very worthwhile to spend some time exploring the ins and outs of these requirements, and to consider your current skill set so you can decide which program will best prepare you.  

Ultimately, the requirements reflect the philosophies of each program – you can see the question “What is necessary for someone to offer EAS competently and ethically?” being addressed in each column.  Every program has its own definition of what it takes to do this work well. Which definition you align with is a very personal choice.  

Whether you would like a short training process that offers tools for your toolbox, or a longer process that offers theory and individual mentorship and support while encouraging personal development – you will ultimately be the one deciding!

How long does it take to get certified?

Here is the general length of time it takes from beginning to certified, keeping in mind that for programs requiring practice hours and mentoring, timing can vary.

 

PATH

 

Varies widely depending on experience

ESMH practice hours

 

AHCB

 

Varies widely depending on experience

 

EAGALA

 

5 days plus exam and portfolio

 

University of Denver

 

10 months, on scheduled dates

 

Herd Institute

 

EFP: minimum 1 year, semi-self paced

EFL-L1,2: minimum 3 months each

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

Varies widely; 6 months -2 years, semi-self paced

This chart and the one above it go hand-in-hand.  A more in-depth training process will take more time.  Embodiment takes time.  Again, only you can know how much time you have to give to this process, and ultimately, what you want to get out of it.  For some, a quick certification is preferred, while others want a deeper learning experience – and again, prior skill set should be taken into consideration.

Who will you be learning from in each program?

 

PATH

 

Local instructors

 

AHCB

 

Faculty

Staff

 

EAGALA

 

Local instructors

 

University of Denver

 

Professor Nina Eckholm Fry and guest presenters

 

Herd Institute

 

Founder Veronica Lac and Herd faculty

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

Founders Tim Jobe, Bettina Shultz-Jobe as well as selection of 13 advanced certified practitioners and equine professionals

When learning something new, who you learn from makes all the difference – their own experiences, philosophy, and training background will inform the way their training unfolds. Learn about the instructors that teach each model – it is important that they have spent a good amount of time implementing services in the field, so their instruction is realistic and applicable to your needs.  

As you can see, several of the current training programs are still at least somewhat facilitated by the founders of that approach (potentially offering an undiluted presentation of information). Learning directly from the founders of any given approach is not always possible, but when it is, students benefit from the direct transmission of knowledge and experience as well as the founders’ experience teaching the material in ever-evolving ways.  

Learning from the founders while also learning from those who are certified and currently practicing the model can offer a well-rounded experience.  It is valuable to learn from and consult with more advanced professionals who have much experience learning and applying the material in their own lives and practices.  EAS can be applied in a myriad of ways depending on your scope of practice, client specialization, facilities, and horses, so it’s important to be able to choose a mentor or consultant with experience similar to yours. 

How many client hours are required in order to complete certification?

 

PATH

 

TR: 25 supervised teaching hours

ESMH: 60 hours

 

AHCB

 

25 hours

 

EAGALA

 

0 hours

 

University of Denver

 

50 hours

 

Herd Institute

 

EFP: 20 hours

EFL-L1: 0 hours

EFL-L2: 50 ‘practice’ hours

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

60 hours

Clearly, there is a wide difference in client hours needed to complete each program.  Why does this matter? In most professions, classroom learning can only take you so far – this is particularly true in a field that is decidedly “experiential” or hands-on.  

Applying classroom theory and knowledge to real world situations requires practice.  It takes time to understand how a process can be applied in a variety of situations (and equine assisted services always present a variety of situations!)  A certification process requiring plenty of practice time while still under consultation or evaluation is a process that values hands-on learning and respects the responsibility we take on when serving clients.

How many hours of support and guidance will I get in professional consultation or mentorship, learning from my teachers or peers in order to complete my certification?

 

PATH

 

TR:  Approximately 25 in-person mentorship hours (not included in certification costs)

ESMH:  0

 

AHCB

 

0

 

EAGALA

 

0

 

University of Denver

 

Ongoing during client hour practice (number of hours are not specified)

 

Herd Institute

 

EFP: 10 hours

EFL: 3 hours each level

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

8-11 hours individual

20 hours group

We all know practice is the best way to learn something new – and correct practice is the best way to learn to apply new learning correctly.  Requiring consultation hours means that while you are practicing you have access to your instructors for case consultation and reflection.  

The more guidance you can receive as you are applying your learning, the more likely you will be applying your learning correctly, competently, and ethically.  Not only will this make you a better practitioner, but it is better for your clients as well. 

Which program offers Continuing Education credits, and how are they offered?

 

PATH

 

Yes, in-person workshops

Conference

 

AHCB

 

Yes, in-person and online workshops and trainings

Conferences

 

EAGALA

 

Yes, in-person workshops

Conference

 

University of Denver

 

No

 

Herd Institute

 

Yes, occasional CE’s offered online and in person

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

Yes

Online and in-person workshops and trainings

Online self-paced (over 500 hours of video library access w/ membership.  Many of these offer CE’s.)

In-person and online conferences

We are all always evolving – as we learn more, see more, and understand better – our approach to healing should adjust as well.  This is where continuing education comes in.  

All health practitioners are required to continue learning throughout their professional careers because new research and an evolution of thought is always emerging.  Most certification programs will require continuing education in order to maintain certification – and some programs offer ongoing learning they themselves have developed. 

Ongoing learning that is approved for official CEUs (continuing education units) or CE hours means that the learning content has been vetted and approved by a separate educational body – indicating a base level of quality.

What is the total cost of certification?

 

PATH

 

TR: $827 – $1370 depending on membership level + travel expenses  +

membership + mentorship costs

ESMH: $600 – $700 + travel expenses +  + testing costs +  membership +mentorship costs

 

AHCB

 

Level I and Level 2 combined :  $1935 – $2135 depending on membership level 

Online Test:  $380 – $480 depending on membership level

+Travel and lodging to two in-person trainings

 

EAGALA

 

$2500 + travel/lodging

$95 annually membership

 

University of Denver

 

$4800  + travel and lodging for 3 residential workshops

 

Herd Institute

 

EFP: $6500 + travel and lodging for two in-person trainings 

*EFL-L1: $1500 

*EFL-L2: $1500

* + travel and lodging for one in-person training

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

$3873 *for fully online (Choose Jumpstart Option and do consults with your co-facilitator)

**for blended options, prices will vary

This is probably the #1 question we are asked:  “How much does NL certification cost compared to the costs to be certified by _______ organization?”  Quite simply, it is terribly difficult to compare costs when the differences in each program are SO varied.  Since we know you are interested in offering high impact, ethical services to your clients, it’s important to consider much more than price alone.   

Just like the duration of training varies from program to program, so will the financial investment.  It is impossible to say the exact investment (except for the NL fully online track) because of all the variables present in each training program – for any blended program travel, lodging, and time away from work will be a factor, and most programs offer several tracks and levels of membership, of course, all having different costs.  As you explore the financial investment that is possible for you, consider the value of each certification process. 

Also, keep in mind that the costs associated with personalized support in the form of supervision, consultation, or mentorship are included in the costs you see in this chart for DU, The Herd Institute, and NL.  

PATH does require mentorship, but it is not included in the costs in the chart because the cost varies and the student is responsible for finding a mentor that will best meet their needs.  The Natural Lifemanship Institute has a team of carefully selected instructors and mentors with advanced training and experience applying our approach in a variety of situations. We take the guesswork out of finding a suitable mentor as several of our instructors are available to book for consultations right on our website. Personalized support is important to the process of embodied learning, so when choosing a certification program, it is worth considering how you will find the support you need.

The offerings are fairly different from program to program – consider not only what is feasible, but what kind of learning is worth your time and money, and the level of support and guidance you hope to have after online or in-person training. 

For a breakdown of the varied costs associated with NL certification,  this webinar offers a lot of insights.

What does it cost to keep my certification up to date?

 

PATH

 

TR: $95 + 20 CE hours every 2 years

ESMH: $100 for membership annually + 20 CE hours every 12 months

 

AHCB

 

This information is not available online.

 

EAGALA

 

$195 annually +

20 CE hours EAGALA approved CEs every 2 years

 

University of Denver

 

None, it is a one time certificate, not a renewable certification

 

Herd Institute

 

20 CE hours annually

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

$375 annually, includes 10 online CE hours, membership, and a listing in the Professional Directory

All of the top 6 programs offer an “ongoing certification” except for the University of Denver.  DU offers a one time certificate that does not require renewal.  This may seem like a benefit, however certification renewal is a way of promoting ethics and best practices in our field.  You will find this a necessary process in any health care profession – it is vitally important  to continue the growth and development of the field, as well as protect those who receive services.

Also, when considering certification renewal fees remember to consider the costs associated with continuing education requirements.  These costs can be quite high when you consider the cost for training, travel, lodging, and valuable time away from work.  

Also consider if this fee does more than simply renew your certification.  For example, NL certification fees include membership (more on that next) and a practitioner listing so that potential clients can find you.  Most importantly, you need not spend ANY additional money to get the CE’s needed to maintain certification.  In many cases, you may even be able to count our CE courses toward others licenses or certifications you are maintaining. 

Is there a membership offered and what benefits do I get for being a member?

 

PATH

 

$70-$190 annually

Networking

Discounts

Directory

Downloadable resources

Subscription to Strides magazine

 

AHCB

 

$55-$95 annually with the American Hippotherapy Association

Discounts

Directory

“Find a Therapist” listing

Access to ScienceDirect Article and Journals

Members Only resources

Subscription to Hippotherapy Magazine

 

EAGALA

 

Networking

Monthly Support Calls

Directory 

Resource Library

 

University of Denver

 

No Membership

 

Herd Institute

 

$150 annually 

Networking

Online discussion forum 

Discounted supervision

Discounts on workshops

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

Not every program offers a membership option, and oftentimes membership offerings are limited.  However, a robust membership and community is incredibly important in a new, quickly evolving, and smaller field.  

NL offers a free membership as part of the certification process. We know the value — both to you and to your clients — of being lifelong learners and we want you to have access to our entire suite of tools and courses as a certification student or certified professional.   

At times, this work can be isolating – it is a unique niche within the world of mental health, therapy, growth, and learning – finding safe and structured places to connect, learn, exchange ideas, and continue growing is invaluable and will make it much more likely that you will be supported and successful in this new endeavor!

Are there advanced certifications offered if I want to deepen my learning or specialize?

 

PATH

 

TR: Advanced and Master Level Certification is available

ESMH: None

 

AHCB

 

Yes, advanced testing and certification is available

 

EAGALA

 

Yes, advanced training offered

 

University of Denver

 

None

 

Herd Institute

 

Coming soon

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

Advanced training and certification available

While basic certification may be your greatest concern at this point, it can be helpful in the selection process to consider which programs also offer advanced training and support should you decide to pursue it.  Not all do.  After completion of basic certification, most practitioners will feel competent to begin seeing clients – however, you will likely find that clients bring different issues to sessions and being able to dive more deeply into specialized issues will only enhance your toolbox.  Programs offering advanced training and/or certification will not only support you in diving more deeply into a specialization or specific area of interest, but will also support you in more deeply understanding the model or approach itself.

*PATH does offer several certifications, but they don’t offer advanced training or certification (that we could find) in the ESMH or TR certification tract.  Every one of these organizations offer conferences as a wonderful way to specialize and deepen your learning, even if they don’t officially offer advanced training or certification.

What is the minimum amount I can spend to begin the training process and see if a program is a good fit for me before signing up for certification?

 

PATH

 

$600 for ESMH: 3 day workshop + travel expenses

 

AHCB

 

$950 – $1050 for 3 day workshop + one day online learning +travel expenses

 

EAGALA

 

$2500 for Fundamentals training + travel expenses

 

University of Denver

 

$1600 for a semester + travel expenses

 

Herd Institute

 

$6,500 EFP or $1,500 EFL (or payment plan) + travel expenses

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

$425 for Fundamentals – foundations track online only (30 CE credits)

For many of us, taking that first leap into training can feel daunting.  Having a lower barrier to entry can make it that much easier to explore the different options that exist and choose for yourself.  Some programs have ways to engage with their training material that is less expensive, while some require a financial commitment to the full program up front.   Each journey will look a little different, and ultimately the deciding factor will be the value of what you are receiving.

 

Ready to explore certification for yourself?

So, there it is, a side by side breakdown of the requirements and benefits of the certification process for each of the major training institutions based in the United States.  Of course, this information serves only as a beginning point to help you narrow down which program might best suit your needs.  

Further exploration would be beneficial to gauge the values, principles, and goals of each training program  – because ultimately, the program you certify with should feel like a professional “home”. 

When you are ready to get certified, we will be honored to join you on the journey and be your partner at every stage of your growth and exploration. Learn more about NL Certification and select the path that’s right for you. And if you’re not sure where to start, take our quiz for some guidance. We look forward to supporting your learning!