Date of Conferral







Sandra Rasmussen


Horses have been an integral part of human history and progress for centuries. Horses and humans have united in diverse ways, including farming, war, construction, racing, and other areas of sports. Researchers have indicated that the use of horses for mental health and wellness is a growing trend that continues to lack strong, empirical evidence. Currently, there is limited research available on the experiences of certified equine specialists incorporating horses into mental health and wellness. It is essential to gain further insight into the incorporation of horses into psychology and counseling for therapists, as well as potential clients, interested in this form of alternative therapy. In this qualitative study, constructivism and phenomenology were used to explore the experiences of therapists using horses in therapy for mental health treatment and wellness. Purposeful sampling was used to recruit 8 therapists for semistructured interviews to gain an understanding of this phenomenon. Data analysis for this study was conducted through a phenomenological approach, thematic analysis, and a priori and emergent coding to identify 8 themes, activities, goals, and outcomes in using horses for mental health treatment and wellness, and insight into the use of horses for mental health and wellness. According to the American Horse Council, there are thousands of unwanted horses in the United States. Incorporating horses into psychology and counseling decreases the number of unwanted horses, as well as horse slaughter. Bringing horses and humans together promotes positive social change by giving both people and horses and new purpose.