of research that provides incontrovertible evidence that equine assisted therapy (EAT) has positive clinical outcomes for participants. Practitioners are desperate for this information to cite in their funding applications. However, this request is always a concern for me because there has never been a piece of research that cannot be challenged in some way.
The importance of the research for my doctorate lay not in its ability to report on outcomes pre-determined by researchers, such as enhanced self-esteem, reduced medication, and improved confidence. It lay in the ability to dig deeper into the realms of EAT and make visible what might have remained invisible. I did this by analysing the language we use to describe, teach, explain and generally market EAT.
The use of language cloaks hidden assumptions and the primary assumption in much of the available research literature on EAT is that it can only be positive for clients - and that is before the research even takes place. It seems our existing evidence base has not always started from a more neutral position.
The use of double blind randomised controlled trials as a gold standard bench mark for research into EAT is questionable. RCT’s are useful when you are testing medications as you have greater control over variables, but you cannot control for the complexity of being human. Time and effort would be better spent in carrying out rigorous social research through the application of a systematic research process. This would ultimately open up our understanding of EAT and make findings more credible.