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Horses as "facilitators"

Recently, LEAP and other organisations have changed the name of the game from Equine Assisted Learning (or Equine Assisted Therapy) to Equine Facilitated Learning. This seems idle word play to many, but from my experience of the work I do with clients and horses, it is an important change.

Horses "assisting" the human facilitator is a different scenario from horses as facilitators. Of course the human faciltator guides the session by planning it, setting it up, holding the space for client and horse, and by being able to communicate verbally with the clients. A big part of being the human facilitator in a horse facilitated learning session is the observation of the client and the horses, to pick up on cues and "use the body as a sensing device" (Ella Jones).

In a horse "assisted" session the human facilitator is in charge and uses the horse as one of the tools of learning or therapy. For me, in a horse "facilitated" session, the horse facilitates the client's journey in equal measure to the human facilitator, just through different means. Horses communicate differently to humans, which in itself is one of the benefits of a horse facilitated session. Teenage clients, for example, often find it a huge relief not to have to "talk about it". The learning takes place through the interaction with the horse and my holding my client and the horse in a safe space.


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