What is Equine Assisted or Guided Learning? The Power of Therapeutic Horsemanship

What is Equine Assisted or Guided Learning? The Power of Therapeutic Horsemanship

​While I do not personally provide​ formal ​equine assisted riding services, I am a firm believer in the ​therapeutic power that comes from horseback riding.

​“The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man.”  Winston Churchill

​The emerging field of Equine Assisted Activities is seeing a dynamic growth around the world.

​There are many national and internationally-recognized organizations, such as Equine Guided Learning (EGL), Equine Guided Education Association (EAGALA), Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH), EponaQuest, Equine Experiential Education (3A), which teach, support and often certify individuals and businesses to offer programs with horses for self improvement – including physical, professional, and personal development  The overall field is known as Equine Assisted Learning (EAL).  The mental or physical health therapeutic field is known as hippo-therapy.

Many people have come to realize that horses are good for us, not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally as well.  Horse owners have figured out for themselves that time spent with their horse(s) is their “special” time and find great solace in being with their horses either in sports or as pets.

There are studies underway to determine the true positive effect that horses have on humans, but we may never totally understand the depth of the relationship between horse and human.   Many anecdotal studies have shown that people are calmer when with horses, and have developed a greater ability to be more sensitive to others after spending time with horses.   It is commonly known that horses are very sensitive creatures and are given credit as being empathetic and aware of a person’s emotional state.   It is a mystery that such a physically powerful creature can be so sensitive and aware of the rider or handler’s state of being. Advanced riders are highly aware of their own ‘state’ when riding their horses and as a result, consciously manage their emotions on purpose to create either higher or lower energy, depending on the desired outcome, in the horse’s energy.   If someone is “upset,” or “having a bad day,” it is common knowledge among horse trainers that horses pick up and mirror the state of the person they are in contact with.

The Equine Assisted Learning industry has been helping people become aware of and improve their physical, mental, and emotional “state”, and is helping people manage and improve their skills most quickly.   It is clear that horses have a most wonderful effect on people.

We often think of therapeutic horsemanship as something that used for people who are dealing with some type of physical, mental or emotional challenge, however the truth is that there are benefits for everyone.

According to Elaine Gagné, Ed.D, MCC, of Equine Guided Learning in Colorado Springs, CO, ​ “Horses have amazing powers of perception and communication that can help us (humans) to be more self aware, identify important desired changes in our behavior, increase our powers of communication and develop our leadership ability.”   In her business ​Elaine works with people who are either business owners, entrepreneurs, or employees to increase their leadership capacity.  One of Elaine’s clients stated, 

“I will never forget the breakthroughs I made with Elaine and her horses! I established boundaries and clarified specific actions I needed to take to re-establish and maintain a better balance in my life. I realized that balance is not possible without being aware of boundaries.  In the past, I have gone to seminars, used techniques, and said affirmations to try to make changes; but I usually forget after a while. It is the experience of working with a horse that is not easily forgotten.”

There are several providers of Equine Assisted Learning programs for anyone looking to have a unique yet powerful experience with a horse.    A simple Google search will show the trend in this dynamic and growing industry.  Programs vary in form from simple to very in-depth.  Simple programs may last a day, such as that of Equine Guided Learning, or many days and years as that of EponaQuest, among others, offering certifications for those wishing to become EAL educators.  There are even groups helping veterans find joy and happiness with horses after suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder when nothing else would work.   It has been known for a long time that mentally challenged individuals find great joy with horses, and paraplegic riders feel they have “legs” when riding.

Riding and non-riding programs are available to anyone interested in this dynamically growing industry.  A professional coach or therapist, and a horse handler in combination typically present the program to ensure a level of safety.

Spirit Therapies is the only licensed and certified EAGALA and PATH facility in Las Vegas, NV.

Comments are closed.