Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Nicole Harris


Caregivers are expected to provide the best care possible to their patients, no matter the circumstances. Depending on the need of the individual being cared for, a caregiver’s job can cause an abundance of stress at various levels and can even lead to decreased mental health. This is often accompanied by a lack of self-care, poor health, and overall diminished wellness, otherwise known as compassion fatigue. Occupational therapists can address poor mental health due to compassion fatigue in caregivers by introducing a variety of important skills, habits, routines, and activities that patients need or want to engage in on a daily basis. Equine-assisted services (EAS) involve equine activities that can be combined with therapy professions, such as occupational therapy, by incorporating horses to address both the mental and physical health of individuals through occupational function, activity, and participation (Palsdottir et al., 2020). Occupational therapy in the EAS environment provides an animal-assisted therapy (AAT) approach that can address and improve mental health conditions by incorporating occupation-based horse activities into therapy sessions. While researchers have linked AAT to improved occupational engagement and decreased mental health disparities in other populations, they have yet to examine the impact of occupational therapy in the equine environment on caregivers experiencing compassion fatigue. Animal-based research foundations, such as the Horses and Humans Research Foundation (HHRF) and the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), offer grant awards for research studying the effectiveness of AAT services on individuals who struggle with significant mental health illnesses (HHRF, 2022; HABRI, 2022). This scholarly project has utilized the 2023 HHRF Innovation Grant Applicant Guidelines and Information, and the HABRI 2023 Proposal Guidelines, to format grant applications introducing a proposed research project studying the effects of EAS on caregivers experiencing compassion fatigue.