The health benefits of human-animal interactions have been well-documented. Thousands of horses provide therapy to people with a wide range of physical, cognitive, and emotional abilities.  Some unique features of horses, compared to dogs and other therapy and service animals, is that they are large and strong, and can be ridden.

Unfortunately, horses are often released from work for behavioral and physical problems.  At present no formal standards exist for evaluating temperamental and behavioral qualities that make a ‘good’ therapy or service horse. This Chat focuses on the development of a screening tool to improve the selection of horses for therapy and service work.

Once selected and trained, a second goal is to keep the horse healthy and happy.  Incorporating ongoing assessments to identify early signs of behavioral and physical issues can help increase retention. Good screening tests have the potential to improve animal welfare and reduce program costs.

This CAAB Chat on is based on a presentation from the 2016 Animal Behavior Society conference. It was  one of a series of talks in the Public Day program on Animals Helping in Society, and given in collaboration with Dr. Sue McDonnell, PhD, CAAB.

For more information and to register, visit

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