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Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP)

EAP is a non-traditional approach to mental health care, where the therapeutic intervention goes beyond the clinical treatment of disorders, and harnesses the strength of the individual to facilitate the prevention and resolution of emotional and behavioural difficulties. This experiential approach utilizing horses allows clients to become aware of their thoughts, words and actions, thereby providing the tools through which individuals can better manage their lives and foster better relationships, whilst simultaneously teaching positive problem solving, conflict resolution, communication and social skills; as well as self-confidence. Horses react to the participants’ body language, giving immediate feedback to both the verbal and the non-verbal communication. They demand emotional and behavioural consistency, as well as require individuals to be actively engaged in activities in an open and honest manner. Participants learn that if they want to change the horse’s behaviour they have to change their own behaviours, thoughts, and feelings. It has been speculated that no animal is more sensitive to human moods and non-verbal communication than a horse. The equine - human bond mirrors the inner private world of the individual. Horses elicit a range of emotions and behaviours in humans, which can be used as a catalyst for personal awareness and growth. They also offer a variety of opportunities for projection and transference. Hence a horse walking away, ignoring, being distracted by other horses, sleeping, wanting to eat at the wrong time, biting, urinating, and neighing are common horse behaviours to which clients respond. Clients can also often relate to a horse’s natural hyper vigilance and impulse to escape when the horse feels frightened or threatened. A client’s interpretation of a horse’s movements, behaviours, and reactions determines the meaning of the metaphor and, as such, provides a portal for the resolution of unfinished business by bringing forth—and addressing—transference reactions in the here-and-now of therapy.
 
EAGALA Model EAP/EAL
- The EAGALA Model provides a standard and structure for providing Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning sessions. Practicing within a model establishes a foundation of key values and beliefs, and provides a basis of good practice and professionalism. The EAGALA Model provides a framework of practice, but within that framework, there are infinite opportunities for creativity and adaptability to various therapeutic styles. The model is solidly grounded in well-established and researched theories of psychotherapy including Gestalt Psychotherapy, Solution-Focused Psychotherapy, Cognitive-Behavioural Psychotherapy, and Experiential Psychotherapy. It provides a clinical advance on these established practices where the incorporation of horses in psychotherapy in a deliberate, principled, thoughtful and professional manner catalyses change.

The 4 mainstays of the EAGALA Model are:
  • The Team Approach – An Equine Specialist, a Mental Health professional, and horses work together with clients in all EAGALA sessions
  • Focus on the ground – All EAGALA sessions are on the ground with horses (no mounted work)
  • Solution-Oriented – The belief that our clients have the best solutions for themselves forms a foundation for the EAGALA approach. Rather than instructing or directing solutions, we allow our clients to experiment, problem-solve, take risks, employ creativity, and find their own solutions.
  • Code of Ethics – EAGALA has a code of ethics, and has a standard of professionalism and ethics.