Benefits of Equine Facilitated Learning & Therapeutic Interactions
Although EFL can be an individual activity, it can be performed in groups. Participants share a common love of horses and a common experience of handling, a good foundation on which to build a friendship.
As the participant moves with the horse and around it. Walking helps build lower-body strength, an important element of good balance. Walking is safe exercise for most people and, in addition to improving balance, counts toward your aerobic activity goals.
Muscles are strengthened by the increased use involved. Even through walking and standing is exercise, it is perceived as enjoyment, therefore the participant has increased tolerance and motivation to lengthen the period of exercise.
Improved Coordination, Faster Reflexes and Better Motor Planning
Leading a horse requires a great deal of coordination in order to get the desired response from the horse. Since the horse provides instant feedback to every action from the participant. Repetition of the patterned movements required in leading a horse quickens the reflexes and aids in motor planning. Eg. obstacle courses
Increased Range of Motion of the Joints
As spasticity is reduced, range of motion increases. Range of motion is also improved by grooming, tacking, and exercises during the session
Improved Respiration and Circulation
Walking, jogging, moving, lifting, stroking ect all increase both respiration and circulation.
Improved Appetite and Digestion
Like all forms of exercise, participation stimulates the appetite
Being with the horse stimulates the tactile sense both through touch and environmental stimuli. The many sounds of the outdoor farm situation help to involve the auditory system.
General Sense of Wellbeing.
Exercise in the fresh air of the country away from hospitals, doctors’ offices, therapy rooms, home helps to promote a sense of wellbeing.
Increased interest in one's own life.
The excitement of participation encourages the participant to speak and communicate about their activities.
Improved Self Confidence.
Confidence is gained in mastering new skills normally performed by able-bodied people. The ability to control an animal much larger and stronger than oneself is a great confidence builder.
Emotional Control and Self Discipline.
The participant quickly learns self-control and to implement behavioural supports when required.
Before one can be taught to read, it is necessary to recognise the difference in shapes, sizes, and colours. These can be taught in the EFL arena in the form of games and activities. There is less resistance to learning when it is part of an EFL session.
Counting is learned by counting the horse’s footfalls, objects around the arena etc. Because the concepts of maths are taught through games, the resistance to learning is less.
Sequencing, Patterning and Motor Planning
Something as simple as holding a pencil requires a great deal of motor planning. Knowing which comes first in a sequence of events is an important part of most activities. These and other skills are taught in an EFL session through the use of obstacle courses, pole bending and many other games and activities.
Improved Hand/Eye Coordination
Eye and hand coordination is necessary for skills such as writing. These skills are taught in grooming and preparing the horse as well as other activities and exercise.
Visual Spatial Perception
This includes our awareness of form and space and our understanding relationships between the forms in our environment. Included in this is directionality (knowing right from left), space-perception (knowing when items are close in shape but different), perception of depth (picking out an object from a background) and visual sequential memory (such as remembering patterns).
The participant learns to differentiate significant from less significant stimuli in the environment. An improvement in this area occurs as the participant learns to attend to their horse and those things that may influence the horse rather than attending to the environment in general.