Special Education and Therapy with the help of horses
“Horses offer the wings we are lacking” The Pegasus Project 2005
Another service we offer with our horses is Equine Assisted Interventions.
What are Equine Assisted Interventions?
Equine Assisted Interventions (EAI) refers to a widely recognised and successfully practised therapeutic method in many European countries and the U.S.A., which aims to improve the quality of life of children and adults with specific needs, by working with the horses as a partner in the therapeutic and educational process.
EAI offer a holistic and goal-orientated approach to overcome physical, psychological, educational and social difficulties.
Learning to ride may be a result of the intervention, but is not its main goal. At the centre of the intervention is the relationship between the horse and the client, their interaction and contact and the stimulus of the movement of the horse.
EAI require from the client to become physically active and body movement is an important part of the EAI session. Taking into account the client’s needs and the goals of the therapy, the sports aspect of EAI can become a central part of the intervention, as this enables the client to improve their body movement, their non-verbal communication skills and sharpen their senses. Physical activity plays a key role in the therapeutic process to further benefits for the client, such as:
gaining confidence and trust
becoming more self-efficient, assertive and aware of oneself
improving communication skills, self concept and social skills
learning to control anxiety and impulses
In EAI, the horse is one of the three important parts of the therapeutic triangle Client - Therapist - Horse.
Within the therapeutic process, horses offer genuine, authentic, immediate and honest feedback to the client which is being processed with the help of the therapist to turn the experience into therapy.
Horses are chosen for this type of therapy because they are big, social animals, who mirror the client’s body language and involve all five senses. Being in balance and harmony with a big animal is a pleasurable experience and can be therapeutic.
Who could benefit from Equine Assisted Learning
The simple answer is - anybody, if they are open to the process!
In particular, clients who deal with the following may benefit from EAI:
physical disabilities, for example cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, posture disorders, visual and hearing impairments etc.
psychomotor and cognitive problems, for example ADHD, ADD, developmental delay, learning difficulties etc.
psychological and psychiatric problems, for example autism spectrum disorders, post traumatic stress disorder, depression, addiction, eating disorders, abnormal fear etc.
emotional problems, for example grief, loss, attachment difficulties etc.
orthopedagogical problems, as in downs syndrome, behaviour problems, aggression etc.
psychosocial problems, for example poor social skills, lack of confidence, shyness etc.
The work with clients will be on a one-to-one basis or in small groups and will take place in the outdoor paddock. The client’s needs will be assessed prior to the therapeutic intervention and a therapy plan will be drawn up, outlining the goal of the intervention as well as the therapeutic approach, according to the individual needs of the client. EAI sessions therefore can vary from client - some may focus on verbal and social skills training, other on non-verbal communication and sensual processing. All sessions will have in common that the client will be encouraged to body movement to a more or less extend. Especially in group sessions, the sports aspect may become central, and clients will learn through games and physical activity. Riding and games engaging the group and the horse may take a more central role.
As many of my clients will be people with no or not much riding experience, I will carry out an assessment before therapy commences with regard to safety aspects. Whenever necessary, helpers will be present throughout the therapy session to ensure safety of the client around and on top of the horse.
How to book a session
Sessions can be booked through us. We offer morning, afternoon and evening sessions and are available at weekends as well. The sessions take place here at our place near Bantry/West Cork. To find out more about EAI and possible benefits to you are someone close to you, please contact us!