Equine Facilitated Learning
EAL is a non-formal educational process in which horses play a key educational role. EAL activities incorporate horses to create situations where transferable skills can be learned. This form of education is experiential in nature, is hands on but it also a whole body approach to learning incorporating all the senses. It is inherently holistic in that it involves the cogitative, emotional and spiritual aspects of self. It is generally ground based.
Who is it for (in the main)?
Most people can benefit from EAL depending on the participants developmental stage programmes can be devised and adapted to facilitate a wide range of learning outcomes.
How does it work?
EAL is experiential which means that participant(s) learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses, and then processing (or discussing) feelings, behaviours and patterns. The participant(s) learn from the horse(s) not about the horse. Activities are set out and tailored depending on the individual learning goals of the participant.
Professional qualifications of facilitators
To provide a professional EAL service the facilitators need a wide range of skill sets. From the Equine point of view there should be qualifications and competencies in animal welfare. In Ireland the following level of education should be achieved:
A minimum of level 7 under the national framework of qualifications in education, social care or related field.
A minimum of level 7 under the national framework of qualifications, including courses listed below.
- Third Level Qualification
- Bachelor of Business in Equine Studies
- BSc in Equine Management (formerly BSc (Hons.) Equine Studies
- Bachelor of Science in Equine Science
- BHS Level 3
- SI Level 2
The benefits of EAL are numerous and include:
- Increased self-awareness
- Increased awareness of non-verbal communication
- Improved confidence
- Improved assertiveness
- Improved attitude towards tasks
- Team building skills
The primary focus of the equine facilitator is on the horse and their interactions with the participant(s). Horses work in the here and now and can take on the emotional state of the situation it is in at a given moment. Some horses will choose to leave the situation (flight) and will be visible in their dislike for certain situations. Others will internalise their responses and it is important to be aware that horses may find the EAL session stressful. To the untrained eye they may appear to be coping where in actual fact, they are not. Signs of this stress occurring may include; increased respiration, sweating, quivering, head bobbing, increased incidence of stretching, licking and chewing.
Whilst EAL is available to most people, active alcohol intake and or substance abuse is absolutely contraindication for EAL. Whilst it may also include the exclusion of those with a history of violence towards people and animals.
Up to this point our main means of referral is through the following means:
- Garda Youth Diversion Programme
- Social Workers-working with children in the foster care system
- Youth Workers
- Key Workers in residential Care Units
- Occupational Therapists
- Principal (School System)
- Self Referrals (Parents)