What is Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL)?
EFL is an emerging field in which horses and humans work together as guides and facilitators to help people enhance their life skills, improve emotional fitness and increase self-awareness.
It is also known as Equine Assisted Learning, Equine Facilitated Experiential Learning, Equine Faciliated Therapy and Equine Assisted Growth and Learning.
Psychotherapists who employ this technique practice Equine Assisted Psychotherapy.
As prey animals, horses have a eightened awareness, sensing body language, intention and arousal levels of those around them, which ensures their survival in the wild.
Despite the years of domestication, horses retain this ability to discern the true intention of another creature. Knowing what another being is feeling on the inside, despite what may be showing on the outside, is essential to survival for a prey animal.
How a horse responds to us can provide powerful feedback about emotions and behaviour, sometimes making the unconscious, conscious. They have not judgement about what the other is feeling, but see it as useful information in order to keep themselves safe.
We are able to live authentically when our actions (our outer self) reflects our emotions and beliefs (our inner self).
Horses will always reflect back to us where our outer self and our inner self are not in alignment allowing us to develop an awareness of the areas of our lives which are incongruent and causing inner conflict.
“As social animals, horses understand the intricacies of forming and sustaining relationships. They readily respond to the same nonverbal cues of dominance, submission, and cooperation used in human encounters. ”
Linda Kohanov, The Tao of Equus.
Unless we live alone at the top of a mountain, then our lives and happiness depend on successful and fulfilling relationships. Horses teach us the important of self-awareness, authenticity, clear boundaries, flexibility and cooperation in handling the relationships in our lives.
There are many spiritual qualities associated with horses, but one of the most prominent, is the ability of horses to keep us in the now, to help us be truly present in our lives.
Eckhart Tolle describes this as “that intensely alive state that is free of time, free of problems, free of thinking”.
As prey animals, horses have to be constantly aware of their environment, their bodies and each other’s feelings in order to stay safe. Somehow, just being; in the presence of horses helps humans achieve a state of relaxation and to live more in the present moment.