About Equine Assisted Services (EAS)
Therapeutic riding and equine assisted services can offer a holistic approach to the development of the child or adult with special needs. The movement of a horse mimics the way an able-bodied person walks.
During a riding session, a rider’s pelvis may move and rotate more than 2,000 times, which cannot be replicated on a machine in a gym or on a mat in a clinical setting. This movement allows dormant muscles to be activated, while also strengthening core, improving posture, and working on gross and fine motor skills. For those with developmental disabilities, mounted activities can help reduce sensory defensiveness, improve listening skills and social interactions with peer groups.
From an unmounted perspective, horses are just as powerful – mirroring the way humans feel and reflect, which helps individuals process trauma and life experiences.
An Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) program, often performed in conjunction with talk therapy, helps clinicians and clients alike talk about experiences and outcomes, using horse and herd behavior as a tool. Programs like EAP can be utilized when working with individuals who have experienced hardship or trauma.
Through an Unmounted Horsemanship (UH) program, participants can learn elements of horse care and horse anatomy while also working on life skills and career development. Instructors utilize horsemanship to help improve learning or socialization skills.
About EATSF Services
Children and adults with disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, developmental and intellectual delays, as well as individuals with emotional and behavior disorders. All participants must have a verifiable diagnosis and a completed program application to begin.
EATSF is open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
Participants enrolled into the EATSF program attend a lesson/session weekly, on the same day and time for the entire program year.
Each program is run on a specified schedule:
- Therapeutic Riding and Unmounted Horsemanship: Lessons are run Tuesday through Saturday
- Hippotherapy and Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy: Lessons/sessions are on Tuesday and Wednesday
The program year is a total of 30 weeks, broken down into three, 10-week sessions – a Fall, Winter, and Spring session. During the summer (July/August), EATSF runs various summer programs.
EATSF is a Premier Accredited Center with the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International. PATH is the accrediting body that provides continuing education and standardization across our industry. EATSF is the only Premier Accredited Center in Broward County. EATSF is reaccredited every 5 years and follows a very strict set of over 100 professional and programmatic standards that help us ensure that we are able to provide the safest and most beneficial program possible.
Every lesson/session at EATSF is facilitated or supervised by a Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor and/or Equine Specialist.
Eligibility for EATSF Services
Potential participants in the Therapeutic Riding, Unmounted Horsemanship, and Hippotherapy programs must be 4 years of age or older to participate. Potential participants in the Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy program must be 7 years of age or older to participant.
EATSF maintains a weight limit of 190 pounds for the mounted/riding programs.
EATSF personnel will ask very specific questions during the phone interview process to determine if there are other potential limitations to program involvement.
While EATSF does everything we can to mitigate these risks through education and training, working with horses can pose certain challenges. Thus, we follow recommendations from PATH International on individuals who should not be riding due to their specific special need. This is why EATSF requires a medical doctor to sign-off on the Medical History Form within the Program Application Packet. If and when appropriate, the Unmounted Horsemanship program is a fabulous alternative to the mounted program.
- A precaution is a warning – if you have a certain diagnosis, you should be aware of certain things that horseback riding exposes you to. For example, individuals with Down Syndrome must supply documentation that they have an annual screening for AAI, as horseback riding and other high-impact sports can pose specific risks to those individuals.
- A contraindication means that the individual should not be riding – or the benefits to riding outweigh the risks. Contraindications can include but are not limited to spinal rods and fusions and/or recent or sustained seizure activity.
Enrolling in EATSF Services
EATSF enrolls potential participants based on program openings and suitability of the potential participant for an available lesson. Availability is based on a first come, first served basis. We do our best to work with your schedule. However, space within each program is limited as participants are placed in programs based on age and functional ability level.
Potential participants are contacted in order of seniority when there is a lesson opening that may be appropriate. Estimated age, functional ability, and suitable horse availability are all considered. EATSF personnel will contact potential candidates via phone and e-mail.
If the individual is available at the time/day of the lesson opening, EATSF personnel will complete a detailed phone interview.
If the lesson is still considered appropriate after review, EATSF personnel will send a Program Application, via email and request the $25 processing fee at this time.
Once a completed Program Application is received, EATSF personnel review all elements for Precautions & Contraindications.
An onsite assessment is scheduled to further confirm appropriateness.
If all steps are successful, the individual is enrolled into the EATSF program.
It is important to note that if at any point during the EATSF enrollment process the lesson opening is deemed unsuitable, the individual would remain on the waiting list.
Once our program team is able to determine if the potential participant can be enrolled, we will send information to apply for a scholarship.
EATSF requires a program application, along with a medical sign-off because we are a Premier Accredited Center with the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International. Paperwork for every participant is also required annually due to our center’s liability insurance.
Participant records are kept for a period of 7 years after an individual no longer participates in the program. A new Program Application must be signed by all respective parties on or after June 1st to be applicable for the upcoming program year.
An assessment is a meet and greet with the potential new participant and one of EATSF’s certified instructors. The purpose of the assessment is to assess the potential new participant's cognitive, emotional, and physical needs to properly place them in one of EATSF’s four programs. The potential new participant may be asked to try on a helmet, mount Magic (our Equicizer—a non-motorized mechanical horse) and/or mount a member of EATSF’s horse herd. Trained volunteers work as a team with the EATSF instructor to prepare the barn, equipment and/or horse for the assessment.
Following the assessment, the instructor will discuss with the parent/guardian the participant's goals. They will also offer them the opportunity to receive a scholarship application, if needed.
All participants are required to wear closed toe shoes during the assessment. We ask that parents/guardians are considerate of the assessment process and do not provide any additional distractions. Parents/guardians are permitted to observe the assessment process from our waiting areas around the arena. With this in mind, we ask that only parents/guardians attend the assessment with the potential participant (no siblings – no animals).
Paying for EATSF Services
Pricing for 10-weeks of service in the Therapeutic Riding, Hippotherapy (physical therapy), and Unmounted Horsemanship programs is $550. This includes one lesson per week. There is also a $25 annual application processing fee. For individual and group pricing for Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy, please call 954-974-2007.
EATSF does not do any third-party billing. Some insurance companies may reimburse for some equine services. Please contact your insurance provider to verify eligibility.
Yes, EATSF does assist families who are currently receiving support through the MedWaiver program with the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities and/or The Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities (FES-UA) through Step Up for Students and the Florida Department of Education.
All participants must self-pay in order for EATSF to process reimbursement materials for family members to submit independently. For more information on the FES-UA scholarship or to apply for funding, please click here to visit, Step Up for Students.
EATSF believes that everyone should have access to our programs and does not want cost to become a barrier to participation. Throughout the year, EATSF solicits support from individuals, businesses, and foundations to provide scholarships for families in need.
Once accepted into the program, an application for scholarship may be requested. Scholarship funds are limited, and amounts awarded vary. Returning participants are sent the scholarship application when it is time to renew the program application. A scholarship can cover anywhere from 25-75% of the session fees. EATSF will ask participants who receive a scholarship to help with fundraising activities.
No, EATSF does not provide reimbursement for lessons/sessions that are missed by a participant. If lessons are cancelled by EATSF due to a staffing or weather issue, EATSF will make every effort to provide a make-up lesson.
About Lesson/Sessions at EATSF
Lesson or session lengths vary based on the type of program:
- Therapeutic Riding: 45 minutes to 1-hour, including the mounting and dismounting process
- Unmounted Horsemanship: 45 minutes to 1-hour, including any introductory activities the instructor has planned
- Hippotherapy: 30 minutes, including the mounting and dismounting process
- Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy:
- Group: 1.5 hours, including any pre- or post-session reflection
- One-on-One: 1 hour, including any pre- or post-session reflection.
Riding and working with horses will require the participant to be active and alert. It is important that participants have already eaten and had an appropriate amount of water before a lesson. Participants must use the restroom facilities prior to a lesson or session.
EATSF is a working farm. We ask that everyone wears closed-toed shoes. It is preferred that participants wear a shoe with a heel. Long pants or jeans are best to protect legs from the elements or the possible chaffing from the saddle if/when mounted.
Most EATSF activities are outdoors, individuals sensitive to the sun should wear their own sun protection and sunscreen.
EATSF team members predominately communicate via email. Phone calls/voicemails are followed up with an email to the parent/guardian. Please make sure that your email address is updated with our team. Also, please ensure that you flag our organizational emails so that they do not float into your junk mail!
To give everyone the best experience at EATSF, we recommend that individuals focus on one area of the program at a time. Participating in the EATSF program and volunteering for the EATSF program are separate from one another with different expectations.
We don’t want anyone to miss their time at the barn. EATSF does not make-up any lessons that participants miss. EATSF only provides a make-up when the organization must cancel a lesson due to staffing challenges or severe weather such as a Hurricane, Tornado, or significant flooding.
EATSF is extremely lucky to have the Vegso Family Covered Arena which allows the program to operate in the rain and later in the evening hours. However, in the event of thunder and lightning, programming must be readjusted appropriately to keep all people and horses safe. This means that instructors will dismount any riding program and/or move an unmounted program indoors. If EATSF can continue to deliver services, lessons that are impeded by the Florida weather patterns are not made-up.
During Hurricane Season, lessons may be cancelled so that the EATSF staff can lock-down the campus and evacuate the horse herd. EATSF will make-up cancelled lessons in the event of weather when the program is able.
EATSF has a partnership with Special Olympics, Broward to offer the Equestrian Program to eligible athletes. The Special Olympics program at EATSF is separate from the weekly lesson program and requires additional paperwork, participation, and commitment from those who are interested in the competition.
EATSF endeavors to hold a county competition, as well as attend an Area and State competition. EATSF participation in these competitions is dependent on the following: staff and coach capacity, herd heath, and existing program needs.
To be an athlete in the Equestrian Special Olympics program at EATSF, you must be an EATSF participant first. Once enrolled at EATSF, you must meet all eligibility requirements to be a Special Olympic athlete. For more information on eligibility criteria for Special Olympics, please click here. Participants must be enrolled for at least 10 weeks prior to the training and competition season, which begins in January of each year. For more information, please call 954-974-2007.
We would love to see you! To schedule a visit or a tour of our campus, please contact our main office at 954-974-2007.
No, Sunday is a day off for the EATSF horse herd. We invite visitors to tour the EATSF campus on the days that our horses are working.
Horses at EATSF
Horses at EATSF are exercised and trained consistently and on a weekly basis to ensure that they are ready to serve our participants. Keep in mind that horses are large, prey animals in nature. While they add tremendous benefits to therapies and activities, there are inherent risks to riding and working with horses. Sometimes, no amount of training or exercise can prevent a horse from spooking.
Our volunteers are trained by our certified instructors and staff members to be able to handle and work with our horses so that you or your child can experience the best possible lesson.
Thank you for considering our program as the next chapter in your horse's life! The life of a horse at EATSF is physically and mentally challenging, as they must be able to assist unbalanced riders or help unmounted participants process difficult emotions.
Before being adopted into our program, a horse must be sound at the walk, trot and canter. The horse must listen to both voice and leg signals, be well-mannered on the ground, and be accepting of assistive devices or equipment, such as a wheelchair or walker. All horses must be able to tolerate working with multiple individuals, including one or two people walking and trotting beside them as sidewalkers. A prospective EATSF herd member goes through a 90-day trial period to ensure that they are a good fit for the program. Click here for more information.
Our horses are trained based on their age and their needs by our Schooling Team and EATSF staff members. Schooling Team members are required to have served at least 250 hours of service and take a basic schooling test. Riders are matched based on availability and the needs of our horse herd.