Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL)

To date, a myriad of associations, titles and acronyms exist to describe programs put people together with horses to assist human growth. The following names a few:  Equine Facilitated Learning; Horse Assisted Therapy; Hippotherapy; Equine Facilitated Therapy; Equine Assisted Learning. There are many more. Please, don’t let this confuse you.


There are two types of equine facilitated or assisted programs —Educational and Therapeutic

The distinction between education and therapeutic programs is essential to make.

Equine Facilitated Learning is the term we use for the work we do here at Equinection. It is experiential-based learning in which trained professionals partner with horses to create opportunities for participants to learn about themselves.

Equinection is unique in that we incorporate experiential education using creative arts techniques, movement, creative dramatics, meditation, and journaling to anchor the lesson learned with the horses. Other similar categories are Equine Assisted Learning, Equine Guided Learning.

Therapeutic equine programs are based in the science of medicine and psychology. It is a diagnostic-based program that incorporates horses in activities with people to address and help heal particular diagnoses. There are specific behavioral outcomes and standards in this line of work. It is a clinically based and motivated program. This therapeutic work is also used for people with special needs such as PTSD. autism, paralysis etc.

The word “therapy” can be added to a description, but is not necessarily the root of the program. This is something for you to determine in Horse Therapy, Hippo Therapy and Equine Assisted Therapy programs.

There is a national certification program for both Education and Therapy programs. This is a step toward insisting on competency training and building professional standards of excellence, but is not required to practice.

How Do I Choose  between Equine Facilitated Learning or Horse Assisted Therapy Program?

CAUTION: Having a love for horses does not qualify someone to become a professional equine-based facilitator; nor does it predict skill in EFL or EFT. Although EFL and EFT involve partnering with horses, the focus of any equine facilitated work is for people; to help and serve people.  It is also true that having professional psychology, social work, or counseling certification does not insure an individual’s success at hippotherapy.

Certification is not always a mark of training; it can be a marketing tool.

In general, the process for selecting a Horse Assisted Therapy or Equine Assisted Learning program and professional is similar to the process for selecting any trusted teacher or counselor – do some research. The following are some things to consider when selecting an EFL or EFT program:


  • Training and education
    • What program or method is used? Are you in agreement with this philosophy? Will this method give you the results you are seeking?
    • What is the earned level of certification or training?
  • How long has the professional been practicing?
  • How many years of training does the professional have?
    • Does the professional engage in on-going training and education?
  • Is this the professional’s full-time profession?
  • Does he/she own or lease the facility?


  • Do you feel comfortable sharing information with the professional?
  • Do you feel safe working with professional and the horses provided?
  • Can you trust that your basic needs will be considered while working with the horses?


  • Are the stables private or public?
  • Is the program held in a private space?
  • Are the horses well cared for?
  • What other jobs do the horses have?
  • How many people take care of the horses, what is the staff’s training?
  • Do you feel safe working with the horses? (Size of arena, condition of the fences; is there support staff?)


  • Read the testimonials for content to determine if the work will address your needs.