Equestrian-Facilitated Therapy (EFT) is a form of animal assisted therapy that involves horses and takes place in and around the natural surrounding of the stables. It is not the same as horseback riding. (Although horseback riding is wonderful when you have the chance.) In the same way therapists may use art materials, play therapy or other techniques, EFT uses the horse for therapeutic purposes. EFT uses equine characteristics during sessions such as “the horse as a heard animal,” whereby the horse, like humans, requires cooperation as much as competition in the bonding among members. Horses vary in character, behavior, life experiences and memories, much the same way as humans. The observation of the dynamics and interactions among the herd when free-running in the paddock enables mirroring which is facilitate by the therapist and services to promote awareness. There are countless ways to parallel horse experiences and relationships with those of our own species.
Like other animal assisted therapies, EFT places a strong emphasis on the relationship between the patient and the horse. Animals are very sensitive to “others,” particularly animals of prey. Horses are natural prey. Humans are natural predators. As such, the horse’s trust in the patient will require the patient to approach with mindful reassurance. Patients using EFT often describe the relationship with their horse as a very powerful medium to gain insight into the human condition. EFT is especially useful for patients who have difficult trusting other human beings, but long for love and affection. Horses do not alienate patients or judge them. Instead, they give patients a new way to perceive trust, self-control and self –image.