Manualized Equine-Assisted Therapy Protocol for Clients with Autism Spectrum Disorder


  • H. Blair McKissock Temple University
  • Ashley Bowen Brigham Young University
  • Shay Dawson Central Michigan University
  • Lori Eldridge East Carolina University
  • Jordan McIntire Indiana University
  • Cedomir Stanojevic Indiana University
  • Daniela Tamas Novi Sad
  • Bryan P. McCormick Temple University



autism spectrum disorder (ASD), equine-assisted learning (EAL), equine-assisted therapy (EAT), evidenced-based protocol, recreational therapy (RT)


Equine-assisted therapy (EAT) is an increasingly popular intervention for people with various disabilities and diagnoses. However, a lack of evidence-based protocols has hampered efforts to provide standardization of treatment. The Galloping Towards Success (GTS) protocol was designed specifically for clients with moderate to severe autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and is described in this paper. The 15-week manualized EAT protocol was previously tested across multiple sites in Serbia and the U.S. (Dawson et al., 2022) demonstrating the protocol’s preliminary effectiveness in increasing social skills in 9 out of 10 individuals with moderate to severe ASD. This manuscript aims to provide professionals with information regarding the GTS 15-week protocol, including an introductory overview, description of participants, assessment, planning weekly intervention activities, evaluation procedures, documentation, limitations, and author comments. This protocol will help create consistency in facilitation among Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists (CTRS ) who use equine-assisted therapy to treat adolescents and young adults with moderate to severe ASD while equipping researchers with the means to conduct future evidence-based research in the area of equine-assisted therapies.

Author Biography

H. Blair McKissock, Temple University

Dr. Blair McKissock has been piloting and evaluating equine assisted programs to document the efficacy of the intervention primarily for veterans with post-traumatic stress (PTS) for over 20 years. She has a BS in Recreation Therapy and a MS in Education. Her doctoral work focused on applied ecopsychology examining a proposed protocol for equine assisted interventions for people with Post Traumatic Stress.  She is a PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor since 1998 and Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning, a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist and Trauma Specialist.  She currently serves as an adjunct professor at Temple University and Director of Education and Research for HorseWork.





Research Papers