Horse-assisted interventions and pseudo-therapies: Between prone gallop and the show jumping


Animal assisted interventions (AAI) are widely disseminated and accepted by the general public, while their efficacy continues to be the subject of debate in scientific-technical circles. This presentation makes a critical analysis of the actual situation of these interventions that include equines, pointing out various threats that make it difficult to demonstrate their validity.

The analysis is organized around four pillars, including:

  1. inconsistencies in definition;

  2. confusion between interaction and assisted intervention;

  3. lack of attention to explanatory mechanism;

  4. difficulties associated with the research designs used in the environment.

Together, these risks make it likely that AAI’s are considered pseudo therapies.

This text indicates strategies to improve the development of research and practice of animal-assisted interventions, summarized in:

  1. the consideration of AAI as a modality within, not a part from. professional disciplines such as physiotherapies, psychology, medicine, social work or educational sciences;

  2. the need to highlight the explanatory mechanism of the change, rather than the presence of the animal.

  3. improving research designs to achieve empirical evidence not only of the efficacy, but also the efficiency of the interventions.