Date of Graduation

Fall 2022


Master of Science in Counseling


Counseling, Leadership, and Special Education

Committee Chair

Jeffrey Cornelius-White


Equine-assisted psychotherapy interventions have become increasingly used and tested as an alternative or complementary approach with youth. This project presents two studies. The first study consists of an overview of existing reviews and a meta-analysis of controlled and comparison studies on the effectiveness of equine interventions with youth. A comprehensive search and selection procedure produced 3,525 records, from which 56 quantitative studies were identified, and ultimately 16 controlled or comparison studies were selected for inclusion in the meta-analysis. Results showed a statistically significant, medium, and homogenous effect size for the overall effectiveness of equine interventions for youth psycho-social outcomes (n = 16, d = .535, 95% CI [.345, .726], p < .001, I2 = 0.39). Included studies showed several limitations in design, as determined by the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) Checklist for Quasi-Experimental Studies, most frequently concerning the lack of complete, analyzable follow-ups, inappropriate or inadequate statistical analyses or reporting, and a lack of a clear control and experimental group. The second study is a pre-post quasi-experiment, which first, examined the reliability and validity of the Horses Assisting Youth Parent (HAY-P) and Staff (HAY-S) scales. Study 2 also examined differences in psycho-social outcomes after the implementation of equine-assisted learning interventions with youth referred for emotional and behavioral problems and if there were differences in the changes between genders. This study consisted of 560 participants (ages five to 17), who were deemed “at-risk” and presented with social/emotional challenges. De-identified data was analyzed for this study. Prior to the main analyses, the HAY-P and the HAY-S scales were examined for its reliability and validity of scores. Results showed statistically significant (p < .001) improvements for youth on the HAY-P and HAY-S Total, Contentment and Communication, as well as Compliance and Focus scores with large to very large effect sizes (d = 1.081 to 2.717) across all six outcome measures. Though the meta-analysis found equine-assisted therapies/activities to be an effective intervention for youth with psycho-social challenges compared with comparison treatments and the quasi-experiment showed significant improvements from pre to post treatment, more research is needed utilizing larger samples, randomized control designs, and concerning specific outcomes and groups.


equine-assisted therapy, youth, mental health, meta-analysis, quasi-experiment

Subject Categories

Alternative and Complementary Medicine | Child Psychology | Counseling


© Sarah Lovins

Open Access