Equine-assisted learning (EAL) is an experiential learning approach that promotes the development of life skills for educational, professional and personal goals through equine-assisted activities. It focuses on teaching life skills. social skills, communication skills, vocational skills and work ethics to a therapeutic population who generally do not benefit from insight or cognitive processing based therapies.
Equine assisted psychotherapy (EAP) is defined as an interactive process in which a licensed mental health professional working with or as an appropriately credentialed equine professional partners with suitable equine(s) to address psychotherapy goals set forth by the mental health professional and the client.
The concept that horses might be helpful or healing to people struggling with mental health issues is based on the idea that horses (as domesticated prey animals) are extremely sensitive to changes in the human being (as a predatory creature). Due to their sensitivity, horses react and respond to people differently based upon the person's emotional state. The horse reflects what it senses from the client providing the client and the therapist with information regarding the client's moods and changes within those moods. If a client arrives anxious the horse will act and respond one way. If the client is able to reduce his or her anxiety, the horse's behaviours will also change. This provides useful information and skill building opportunities for both the client and the therapist.
Reflective feedback provided by the horse to the client can also act as a mirror through which the client and the therapist can view the client's projections and transferences.
Both of these modalities should be practised only by a certified equine facilitator..