Core Competencies 

In 2016, the American Counseling Association (ACA) took a significant step towards supporting the idea of core competencies in animal-assisted therapy. The ACA now requires all its members who include any species of animal (including equines) in counseling to demonstrate specific knowledge, skills, and attitudes as outlined in the ACA’s Animal-Assisted Therapy in Counseling Core Competencies. Although this requirement is specific to ACA members, these core competencies are useful for any licensed healthcare professional (PT’s,OT’s, ST’s, MHP’s) who provide equine-assisted therapy.

ACA’s Animal-Assisted Therapy in Counseling Competencies

Layered on top of these core competencies are the species-specific knowledge and training professionals must receive to safely and ethically include each different type of animal within a human healthcare service.

EAAT Foundational Competencies 

After years of comprehensive research and study, I have complied a set of competencies that are relevant for all providers of equine-assisted activities or equine-assisted therapies, and are not specific to any model, approach, or type of therapy. This foundation helps to establish a common language and knowledge base for all providers of equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT). Once a professional has become competent in these general areas, he or she can advance by adding speciality training specific to professional licensure, model, method, or technique.

Leif Hallberg’s Recommended EAAT Foundational Competencies


Voluntary credentialing is another way to establish competency within any profession or professional practice.  Credentialing is a non-biased process that validates prior experience and education, and assesses for knowledge in various areas of competency. Credentialing is separated from training to ensure non-biased assessment of competency. Training organizations that offer a “certificate” should not be confused with a formal credentialing board or “certification” board that must meet standards specific to credentialing.

In the EAAT industry, this credentialing process is offered through two independent certification boards, the American Hippotherapy Certification Board (AHCB) and the Certification Board for Equine Interaction Professionals (CBEIP). During the exam component of the credentialing process, applicants are evaluated for their knowledge and competency related to including horses in healthcare or education. Below are links to the content outlines for each of these exams.

AHCB Hippotherapy Certification Examination Content Outline

AHCB Hippotherapy Clinical Specialist® Certification Examination Content Outline 

Certification Board for Equine Interaction Professionals-MH Content Outline 

Certification Board for Equine Interaction Professionals – ED Content Outline