Equine Assisted Personal Development is experiential in design where
preconceived learning goals can be experienced.
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy is a psychological treatment form that
combines concepts deriving from Psycho-analysis and Gestalt therapy
with experiences and experiential learning.
Both approaches incorporate the EAGALA model. In both participants
are invited to participate in activities that involve interactions
with horses. Both offer the opportunity for participants to acquire
and practice new abilities.
Nonverbal communication, creativity, problem solving skills, the
ability to assume responsibility, leadership skills, work ethics,
cooperation and relational skills as well as self esteem are just some
examples of skill sets that can be acquired, practiced or developed
through equine assisted experiences.
What is "experiential learning"?
Incorporating horses into the learning and developmental process
transforms the typical process into an experiential one. Participants
get to participate and execute certain activities. By processing some
of those activities in a follow up conversation, during which
observable behaviors and events are brought up, participants have the
opportunity to learn much about their thought processes, internal
convictions, actions and typical behavioral patterns.
What does the Equine Assisted process look like (according
to the US Association for Experiential Learning)?
Experiential learning occurs when carefully chosen
experiences are supported by reflection, critical analysis and
Experiences are structured to require the learner to
take initiative, make decisions and be accountable for results.
Throughout the experiential learning process, the
participant is actively engaged in posing questions, investigating,
experimenting, being curious, solving problems, assuming
responsibility, being creative, and constructing meaning.
participants are engaged intellectually, emotionally,
socially, soulfully and/or physically. This involvement produces a
perception that the learning task is authentic.
The results of the learning are personal and form the
basis for future experience and learning.
Relationships are developed and nurtured: learner to
self, learner to others and learner to the world at large.
The facilitator and participant may experience success,
failure, adventure, risk-taking and uncertainty, because the outcomes
of experience cannot totally be predicted.
Opportunities are nurtured for participants and
facilitators to explore and examine their own values.
The facilitator 's primary roles include setting
suitable experiences, posing problems, setting boundaries, supporting
learners, insuring physical and emotional safety, and facilitating the
The facilitator recognizes and encourages spontaneous
opportunities for learning.
Facilitators strive to be aware of their biases,
judgments and pre-conceptions, and how these influence the learner.
The design of the learning experience includes the
possibility to learn from natural consequences, mistakes and
Why are horses part of the process?
Horses can have a strong and big impact on human beings. Whether it
is the building of a relationship, training a horse or taking care of
one – all those activities can influence the person involved in them.
The cooperation between humans and horses enables a developmental and
learning process in a natural way.
Horses are similar to humans. They are social animals. They have
clearly defined roles within their groups and herds. They typically
search for contact to others like them. They have distinct
personalities and at times mood swings. One method that works with one
horse may not work with another one. At times they may appear stubborn
and uncooperative. Their sheer size may be intimidating to some
people. Engaging in activities with horses and, for example,
overcoming those obstacles can provide room to expand self esteem,
which in turn may be transferred to everyday life. In other words:
interactions with horses offer great opportunities for metaphorical
What part do the horses take on during the process?
Horses are able to react to human body and nonverbal language cues.
By having partipants create true to life scenarios, the probability
increases that used materials are emotionally connotated and charged,
which shows itself in participants' body language. Horses react to
those cues. Their reactions are documented according to patented
observational categories and presented back to participants, who may
interpret or label those reactions. Horses therefore can become symbol
carriers and potential metaphors. Participants are able to practice
and experience various aspects of interest in an emotionally safe
Therefore horses are an integral part of our work.
Metaphor (greek, "to carry over, translate, transport") is a
rhetorical figure or figurative picture in which a word is not used in
its literal but instead symbolic meaning. Typically there are some
similarities between the original word and its metaphorical
In the field of psychology a metaphor is a description of an object
in words that fit another object. It is a simple verbal, culturally
influenced cognitive concept in which the realm of human experiences
is structured, interpreted and communicated.
In equine assisted work metaphors are in part employed to label the
horses's functions. A horse can therefore at times become symbolically
a conflict that needs to be dealt with. The horses can become symbolic
team mates who need to be motivated to overcome challenges.
The applicability is sheer endless and new behaviors and insights
are easily transferred to everyday life.
Are references proof of success? Or do they rather serve as
evaluation or easing of underlying concerns? Or do they serve to
heighten one's own image?
Client comments and coaching references will not be published by me.
Confidentiality is important and is an absolute prerequisite for
At this time it is important to note: the people depicted on posted
pictures are volunteers and training participants who have experienced
equine assisted work and were trained in working with the model. The
photos are copyrighted and were used only with explicit permission of
all persons shown in them.