What is Equine Assisted Therapy?

WHAT IS EQUINE ASSISTED PSYCHOTHERAPY?

Equine assisted psychotherapy (EAP) is an experiential therapeutic intervention in which horses provide
a way to gain information about and insight into difficulties clients are having in their lives. Within the
rapidly growing field of EAP, there are different models regarding how to conduct this type of therapy.
We believe the most effective and safest model is that proposed by the Equine Assisted Growth and
Learning Association or EAGALA, a non-profit organization which promotes, educates, and provides
standards of practice, ethics, and safety in the field of EAP (please visit eagala.org). In this model,
therapy is conducted with a team consisting of a mental health professional, a horse professional, the
client(s), and a herd of horses.

EAP is experiential in nature – that is, clients participate in activities involving horses and then discuss
the feelings, behaviors, and patterns that emerge. These activities typically do not involve riding
and are intended to represent the problems the client is experiencing in his or her life. Thus the
information gained from interacting with horses is directly applicable to the client’s life and relationships.
EAP is a powerful and effective therapeutic approach that has an incredible impact on clients. Becoming
aware of non-verbal communication, practicing assertiveness, teaching problem-solving, taking
responsibility, promoting teamwork, building relationships, increasing confidence and improving attitude
are examples of the benefits of EAP.

WHY HORSES?

There are many reasons why working with horses is beneficial to people. Like humans, horses survive
by living in a group where they socialize and depend upon one another. They establish relationships
with each other through clear communication and acceptance of boundaries. Horses are very aware
of what goes on around them and this sensitivity to their environment means that they can pick up on
what may be going on emotionally within a human. Therefore, what may take months to access in a
traditional therapy setting may be accessed right away through an interaction with horses. Horses are
big and to work effectively with them, they require humans to be self aware, to communicate clearly and
to behave assertively and with purpose. Finally, like people, horses have unique histories, personalities,
and yes, ‘issues,’ that make them easy for most humans to relate to and learn from.

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