Equine Facilitated learning is an experiential approach to learning, based on the idea that change and growth take place when people are actively, (physically, socially, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually) involved in their own learning process as opposed to being the receivers of information.

People learn best when they are inspired and feel a sense of control with their learning situations, engaged in opportunities that reflect on the learning experiences so they relate, connect and transfer to real life and future learning.

Equine Facilitated Learning engages people in activities that give them the opportunities to take ownership of their learning, to actively explore and practice concepts, and to reflect on these experiences as it relates to their own life.

Why Horses?

 Horses are powerful partners in experiences that initiate human insight because their world evolves around present moment awareness. As flight animals their ability to somatically (soma - relating to the body), sense is intrinsically felt as a survival response. They seek harmony and equilibrium and will respond to their environment immediately if they feel uncertain or unsafe. Their immediate feedback, offers metaphorical and introspective learning.

Horses will sense immediately within their bodies if they are in the presence of someone who’s internal experience is not in sync with their external expression. This causes confusion and uncertainty for them and they will react accordingly, through either loss of interest, walking away, taking over or tuning out.

Horses assist the process of bridging the cognitive, physical, emotional and sensory aspects of ourselves towards a whole and congruent, authentic and mindful presence. Ultimately creating, a solid ground from where we gain greater understanding of our emotional reactions, encouraging moments of reflection, and how we relate our learning to real life situations. Horses teach us the importance of developing healthy boundaries, the effectiveness of clear and congruent communication and identifying the messages and meanings of body language, which is all translatable to the continuous building of life and leadership skills.

A variety of Experiential, reflective and dynamic, activities are used to target our beliefs, habits and behavioural responses. These are explored during the activity debriefing so participants can gain greater personal insight about themselves and how they've  interacted with the horses and one another to accomplish objectives and meet goals. The experience with the horses is reflected back to our day to day personal life or work environment to draw parallels and establish metaphors. The basic premise of the experience is that how we interact with the horses is an indication of how we interact in our relationship both personal and professional.

Spirit Gate Farms integrative approach to EFL

We have developed a safe and informed approach to working with people and horses together in an experiential educational environment to support insight, promote healing and create wellness.

Our Influences include:

  1. Barbara Rector - Adventure in Awareness - the Grandmother of the EFL movement
  2. The Epona Approach - Linda Kohonav
  3. Generation Farms - Deborah Marshall
  4. Strides to Success - Debbie Anderson
  5. Equine Experiential Education - PJ Stegen
  6. Animal Behaviour Sciences
  7. Relational, mindful horsemanship practices
  8. Zen and Raja Meditation practices
  9. Somatic Therapies - Peter Levine, Babette Rothschild, Alexandra Parness
  10. Trauma Healing - Peter Levine, Bruce Perry
  11. Childhood Development - Dr. Gordon Neufeld, Dr Bruce Perry
  12. Neuro Science studies - Dr. Daniel Siegel


Our Approach:

  1. Developing Emotional and Social intelligence
  2. Present moment focus
  3. Utilizing all senses
  4. Attuning to the sensations of the body as information
  5. The PAUSE principle
  6. Interrupting trauma stories
  7. Working within windows of tolerance
  8. Practicing emotional Self Regulation
  9. Understanding and developing emotional congruence
  10. Supporting strengths