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Guide to Choosing an Equine Facilitated Practitioner

28 February 2016

Background And General Points:

Over the past two decades there has been a significant increase of interest and activity within the field of Equine Facilitated/Assisted Learning; Equine Facilitated/Assisted Therapy and Equine Facilitated/Assisted Psychotherapy, both here in the UK and worldwide.

Referred to via a range of other terms including Equine Assisted Learning/Therapy, or Equine Guided Learning/Therapy, as well as numerous acronyms including EFL; EFP; EAP; EAL and EAT, this form of learning, personal development and different types of therapy is a fast growing modality and is proving to be very popular.

In addition, there is now an array of training models and training providers offering certified practitioner training in the UK, Europe, America and elsewhere in the world. This can be both daunting and confusing for the public wishing to access these services and for people wanting to train in this field. It is also the case that people can train abroad such as in America and then practise here in the UK.

The most well-established and recognized training organisations are:

1) EPONAQUEST (formerly known as EPONA) – led by Linda Kohanov; American based but now also offers trainings and CPD in the rest of the world including the UK/Europe

2) The Medicine Horse Way Apprenticeship of Equine Experiential Learning (based on the Eponaquest Approach with the potential to go on and complete the Eponaquest Instructor certification) - UK based (Rosie Withey).

3) EAGALA – American based but has a UK Network and offers training and CPD in the UK

4) LEAP – UK based

5) IFEEL – UK based

6) EAQ – UK based

7) EAHAE – European including a UK base

8) HEAL - American based (Leigh Shambo)

9) Miranda Carey, EHWAZ - Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy Training - UK based

10) Athena Herd Foundation CIC - EFL Training - UK based

11) Equi Scotia - EFL Training, Scotland/UK based

12) The Heart Centre - Equine-Assisted Therapeutic Coaching Programme - UK based.

*Many more organisations and individuals who provide training exist around the world, these are just some of the most established ones with a UK focus.

*If you provide training and wish to be included on this list please send me details of your programme and the link to it via my contact me form. 

Equine facilitated personal learning/growth/ therapy/psychotherapy/leadership can be extremely powerful. It is a unique methodology and thus, requires a specific and unique set of dual-skills in the facilitator/s so that it can be delivered effectively and safely.

This is because horses easily sense underlying incongruities (this is when thoughts, body, emotions and behaviours aren't in alignment). Therefore, horses have the potential to expose vulnerabilities within people often within minutes of meeting a person, which might otherwise remain hidden or take months or even years in talk-based therapy to uncover. It is for this fact alone, the so-called "x-ray vision of the horse", that it is essential for the facilitator/s to be specifically trained, supervised and insured when partnering with horses. The method can be deep and powerful, which is of course why it is also highly effective.

In addition, horses cannot distinguish between the facilitator's and the client’s feelings. It is therefore essential that the facilitator has an advanced level of self-awareness and excellent personal boundaries. This is so that they can safely guide the session and support their clients, as well as ensuring the horse's well-being at all times. It can happen that a client’s emotional and psychological wounds can suddenly be exposed after years of protection and defence, which can leave people feeling exceptionally vulnerable and in need of solid professional support and help. 

Therefore, any form of equine-led work, including leadership programmes, can potentially be psychologically and emotionally therapeutic. So, I strongly advise that you approach choosing a practitioner in the same way that you would a suitably qualified and experienced counsellor, therapist or life-coach.

The Guide:

A Guide to choosing a practitioner in Equine Facilitated Learning/Coaching and Equine Facilitated/Assisted Therapy/Psychotherapy:-

 1. Check that the practitioner has trained in either EFL/EFP/EFT with one of the above listed training providers, or another genuine and well-established training provider. This should be clear and obviously listed on their bio on their website and through the use of logos.

***As outlined above, this is a highly specialised profession and therefore DOES require specific, additional training in either EFL or EFT/EFP. 

Important Note: People who are trained in other equine activities such as: Horse Whispering, Native American Horsemanship, Natural Horsemanship, Traditional Horsemanship, horse training; who hold BHS qualifications, or have lots of years' experience working in the equine world, does not necessarily or automatically make them suitable or qualified to deliver this form of personal or professional development or therapy. It is crucial that they have undergone a formal training with one of the recognised bodies listed above, otherwise they will not be adequately or safely trained and are also not likely to be correctly insured, supported or supervised. 

Also, check the training credentials and experience of those coming from therapy or mental health fields (see point 2 below for more on this), and the holistic therapies field such as NLP, hypnotherapy, Reiki, spiritual healing, animal healing and communication and similar, to make sure that they have also undertaken specific training in EFL, EFT or EFP to partner with horses.

To reiterate: Including horses in methods of personal development, education or therapy brings an added dimension that even qualified talk-based therapists can be unprepared for, and so it's vial that they have undertaken additional, specific equine-facilitated training.

2. If you are looking for a form of equine facilitated therapy then it is advisable that you also make sure that the therapists involved are properly trained and qualified and ideally, also registered with one of the recognised bodies such as UKCP or BACP. Again, that should be clearly mentioned on their website or you can search the UKCP or BACP database to check. *(These are UK only bodies so please check for similar registered bodies for therapists in your own country).

3. Check that the practitioner has insurance: ask to see their certificate, this should be displayed anyway on their premises but you can always ask to see a copy whilst deciding whether to employ them or not.

4. Those trained by one of the larger training bodies -  EPONAQUEST, EAGALA, EAHAE, IFEEL, LEAP - will have a Code of Ethics to abide by and you can ask to see this beforehand.

5. If they are offering equine facilitated therapy or psychotherapy, you may wish to ask whether they have regular supervision.

6. Check what ongoing CPD (Continuing Professional Development) they undertake and how often, e.g. annual conferences, annual refresher training, other training in this or relevant related areas.

7. Check what Professional Forums or Networks they belong to, e.g. Equine Assisted & Facilitated Practitioners Network (EAFPN) in the UK, or PATH International in America, or Horses in Education and Therapy International (HETI).

8. Check that the organisation is correctly licensed by the Local Authority to provide activities involving animals, as required by The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018.

9. Explore how they keep their horses and how they work with them. Make sure you are happy with how their horses live and their horses' general state of health and happiness. Check that their organisation places significant emphasis on the well-being and lifestyles of their equine colleagues.

*If you provide training and wish to be included on this list please contact me.

© Angela Dunning, June 2015, updated January 2020 and November 2021.

More information on all of these issues can be found in Part II of my book: The Horse Leads the Way: Honoring the True Role of the Horse in Equine Facilitated Practice, available to buy from me directly or Amazon.

Interested in potentially training in this field? You might want to also read this: Starting out in the Field of Equine Facilitated Human Development

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