If you were to ask students in any equine science and management program why they want to work in the horse industry, typical responses might included training race horses, working in the sport horse world, breeding, managing a stable, or becoming a veterinarian. Rarely do they mention a desire to collaborate with horses to teach humans about themselves, nor can they envision the horses they will work with becoming some of the best teachers for their own personal and professional development.
Yet men and women alike are drawn to working with horses for many reasons, some of which are not easily put into words. As Winston Churchill so aptly said: “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”
To fully understand this “something” requires us to experience the horse-human relationship from a completely different perspective. “This notion of horses enlightening humans about themselves is a relatively new one,” said Lissa Pohl, MA, program and outreach associate and researcher with the University of Kentucky’s Center for Leadership Development in the College of Agriculture. “However, horses have much to teach us, and it’s really changing that old paradigm of horses being the receivers of what people know, to people being the receivers of what horses know and how, together, we can create collaborative learning relationships.”
Over the past two decades, the emerging field of Equine Assisted Activities (EAA) has seen explosive growth worldwide. As of 2008, more than 700 centers in the United States and several internationally recognized organizations provided some type of EAA program. In the United States this list includes the Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH), Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA), Equine Guided Education Association (EGEA), EponaQuest, and Equine Experiential Education Association (E3A).
These organizations teach, support, and certify interested individuals in collaborating with horses for healing and human growth and learning purposes, a field better known as Equine Assisted Learning (EAL). Yet, while there is growing interest in EAL programming worldwide, evidence that working with horses in a facilitated experiential learning situation actually changes a person’s behavior is mostly anecdotal, and what little research exists in this field focuses mostly on the effectiveness of equine-human mental health therapies or on the physical therapeutic aspects of working with horses, known as hippotherapy. For EAL to gain legitimacy, credible research looking into how horses assist humans in their own personal and professional growth and development is needed.
Habitat for Horses is a 501.c.3 nonprofit equine protection organization supported solely by donations. As of this today, we have 165 donkeys and horses under our care, plus one ornery, old mule. Most of them are here because law enforcement removed them from their previous owner. Our ability to rehabilitate and rehome them comes from the financial support of people like you. Please support us by making a donation for the horses we all serve. Click HERE to donate