Developing strength, spirit and soul through Equine Assisted Development

Equine Assisted Development is the umbrella term to describe a vast range of human therapeutic interventions of which are assisted by the use of horses, treating a range of disabilities or even just for personal development. Horses are ideal for assisting in therapeutic interventions due to their character. Horses do not judge people on physical appearance nor capabilities, forming responses and interactions on a much deeper level being in tune with emotional and non verbal clues that humans offer.

Many titles are currently being used around the world to describe the various interventions available. The many different titles demonstrate the vast difference in interventions, practitioners background and training. Titles generally begin with Equine Assisted, Equine Facilitated or Equine Guided, followed by the type of intervention used, such as Therapy, Psychotherapy, Mental Health, Life Coaching, Development, Learning, Team Building. However, interventions such as Hippotherapy and Therapeutic Riding do not follow this naming pattern.

EAD Australia recognises different the backgrounds of practitioners and the variety of interventions available, however understands that such a vast variety of titles can become very confusing for a person attempting to find a practitioner or build a career pathway, therefore has defined several titles for interventions as below.


Equine Assisted Therapy

Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT) involves a therapist working with a client to determine their therapeutical goals, whether that be team development or personal development such as building self esteem and confidence, working through difficult situations such as grief, loss, trauma or treating illness. The therapist sets appropriate activities for the client to complete with the horse in order to achieve these therapeutic goals. Horses have an amazing ability to sense human emotion and reflect and respond to non verbal cues, allowing the client to develop a greater insight into themselves and their recovery process. All EAT exercises are completed on the ground and do not involve riding.

EAT may be provided by therapists of all educational backgrounds including natural therapies, counselling, psychology, mental health, education and human development. EAT may be delivered on an individual basis or within groups. EAT is considered an experiential therapy. Within experiential therapy the facilitator ensures a safe environment offerning activities of which allows the client to then develop his or her own cognitive, emotional, social and physical responses while learning throughout the process through experimentations, problem solving, curiosity and trial and error. The experiential model allows clients the opportunity to learn through their own experience and reflection rather than simply being told something.


Hippotherapy literally stands for treatment with a horse, consisting of programs delivered to treat impairments in physical and cognitive ability and motor skills. HP is delivered by experienced occupational therapists, speech pathologists and physiotherapists. The activities include care of the horse, interaction with the horse and horse riding. The riding component has been reported to improve co-ordination, motor skills and balance in people with a wide range of physical limitations, the care and horse interaction assists with the cognitive and speech component of the treatment.

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy is similar to EAT however is provided by a trained mental health professional who delivers psychotherapy. EAP is considered more appropriate for people with a diagnosed mental illness, however certain practitioners offering EAP may also offer sessions in personal development and team building. Like EAT, EAP consists of ground work activities only and may be delivered on an individual basis or within groups. EAP is also an experiential therapy.

There are several different model of EAP including but not limited to Gestalt Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and the EAGALA model. It is best to check with the practitioner about which model they operate under and thier qualifications in this field.

Equine Assisted Learning

Equine Assisted Learning focuses on team or personal development through learning new approaches to tasks and a new awareness. EAL is considered an experiential learning process (see definition in EAT summary). Learning can be achieved within groups and individually. People with many different goals have benefited directly from EAL, including adults aiming for personal growth and children with autism. EAL may be delivered by practitioners with backgrounds in human development, education, natural therapy and health fields.

Therapeutic Riding

Therapeutic Riding can have similar outcomes to Hippotherapy, in relation to building muscles, balance, co-ordination and motor skills for people with limitations in these areas, however unlike Hippotherapy which is a graded program using the stimulus input of the horse, therapeutic riding focussed on the benefits achieved through general riding motions. Clients ride horses which are led by trained staff or volunteers, either in groups or individually. The motion of the horse is also noted to increase nerve function and mobility.

You can find an Equine Assisted Development Practitoner by searching the directories at EAD Australia.

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