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Equine Assisted Therapy & Learning

What is EAP/L?

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Learning (EAP/L). The practice of using horses in the treatment and training of humans is a non traditional therapeutic approach. EAP/L activities can provide a ‘safe challenge’, an opportunity to explore ways of managing difficult situations, fear, attitude, and way of being in relationships and society.

The difference between Equine Assisted Learning and Equine Assisted Psychotherapy
In the EAGALA model, both Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) and Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) use an experiential methodology and a ‘hands on’ approach. This approach is unique as it requires the client to enter the horse’s environment. The process incorporates a team of mental health professional (MHS), equine specialist (ES) and horses. In many EAL and EAP models, such as the EAGALA model, clients work with or around the horses on the ground and no riding is involved. Horses are used as co-facilitators in the treatment process as opposed to the therapy.

Equine Assisted Learning
EAL and EAP differ in their treatment goals and outcomes. In EAL the treatment team focuses on specific educational and learning objectives through activities incorporating the horse and specifically designed to reflect the objectives. EAL clients are usually in groups or teams and have goals such as leadership and communication skills, conflict resolution, or numeracy and literacy skills, rather than focusing on personal therapeutic needs. As such EAL has different privacy parameters than those in EAP. However, it should be noted that whilst in an EAL session, the client may experience strong emotions or distressing thoughts and find that they require the skills of a qualified mental health professional to assist in the processing of these unexpected feelings.

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy
During EAP sessions the EAGALA team addresses mental health treatment goals and issues through activities that aim to reflect real life issues.  As counseling and therapy are part of the process, the EAP professionals are obliged to respect confidentiality and privacy of the client/s as with any psychotherapy. EAP is grounded in well established and respected therapies including Gestalt, Reality, Cognitive-Behavioural, Rational Emotive, and Solution Focused Brief Therapy, and an increasing number of studies are supporting its effectiveness for individuals and groups.

Photography: Louise Campbell and Meegan McSpedden