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What is Equine Facilitated Learning?

Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) is an experiential learning approach that allows participants to develop new and expand on existing life skills. For example, when partnering with a horse or horses and a skilled EFL practitioner, one can increase their relational abilities.


The EFL practitioner, or coach as they are often called, facilitates the horse and the client's experience. They engage in activities that require the client to develop a relationship with the horse; in the session, the horse inevitably holds up a mirror to see where things are not working.


The coach and client then work through the sticky bits, delve into the client's natural wealth of knowledge, and discover different and more effective ways of being.

Working with horses helps us to open the window to our souls. Unfortunately, over the years, that window has gotten painted shut as we try to fit in, conform to cultural or familial norms as we try to dim our light, so we don't shine too bright and disown our shadows that are too painful to admit.


If we are willing to look, listen, explore, horses will guide us back to the path that is ours and ours alone. Once we start that journey back to self, we discover joyfulness and ease in life. The difficult times are more manageable, and we can become more comfortable with who we are. The wisdom of the horse is the first hoofbeat back to our authentic self. 


Horses are experts at reading the energy of whoever is in their environment. It is how they have managed to survive for 50 million years. They are prey animals; therefore, they have to distinguish between a mountain lion who has eaten and one who is on the hunt.


When what a horse sees does not match with the energy they are receiving, the horse gets wary of what is happening. I have seen horses keep their distance from a person experiencing intense emotion but had a smile plastered on their face. When the person aligned their demeanor to their feelings, the horse became interested in them.


As humans, we have become disconnected from our ability to notice incongruencies in people. Working with the horses helps us to become more authentic in our presentation and to be able to detect subtle disharmonies in people's outward manner. The horses model authenticity; they are always true to who they are.


Working with horses provides clients with opportunities to learn critical life skills such as trust, respect, honesty, and communication. Horses rely on non-verbal communication and are in-tune with human behavior. Realizing the importance of non-verbal communication can help clients understand how their non-verbal communication might impact or influence others in their lives.


Horses ask people to be aware of their surroundings at all times. Through interactions with the horses, clients learn a heightened sense of self-awareness. Self-awareness is essential to reveal patterns of behavior and offers clients the opportunity to think in a new way.

Furthermore, clients gain self-esteem and self-confidence while learning how to work with such a large and powerful creature. Horses provide a new way to see our internal landscape, and our modes of operation are exposed.


The way we do one thing is how we do all things. Horses allow us to experience humility, compassion, and challenges - all critical elements to supporting self-growth and self-awareness. 


Benefits of EFL

•    Promotes confidence and expertise needed to excel in a work or school                         environment

•    Increases creative thinking and critical thinking

•    Helps decision-making and problem-solving

•    Improves communication and interpersonal skills

•    Develops self-awareness, awareness of others, and empathy

•    Develops emotional agility and stress management skills

•    Increases Habits of Mind skills such as Persisting, Listening with Empathy and             Understanding, Gathering Data Through All Senses, and Thinking Flexibly


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