A new advocacy group which aims to raise visibility and funding for equine assisted therapy and learning (EAT&L) in Northern Ireland will mark its online launch on November 3rd in an International One Health Day webinar.
The One Equine Trust, brainchild of five experienced business leaders and volunteers who commissioned a report into the current state of Northern Ireland’s providers and service users, will seek to position EAT&L as a series of mainstream treatments for people with physical, mental, emotional and educational challenges.
In a collective show of support, the One Equine Trust webinar participants will include ministers from the Departments for Health, for Education and for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Robin Swann, Peter Weir and Edwin Poots.
One Equine spokesperson, Richard Moore, former chairman of NI Meat Exporters’ Association and the NI Food and Drink Association, says the vision is that everyone in Northern Ireland who could benefit from EAT&L has access to affordable, accredited services.
“The big goal is that Northern Ireland will be known as a region of excellence, recognised internationally, for the practice of equine assisted therapies, the training of therapists, and advancing research in this expanding international field of practice,” says Mr Moore.
“EAT&L interventions can be implemented early and more effectively than certain conventional therapies and we believe that the total costs of therapeutic interventions can actually be reduced by incorporating EAT&L. in approved lists.
“There has been a remarkable growth in the numbers of people working in this field globally. The scope of these services, their size, backgrounds and methodologies vary greatly and there is little apparent coordination between them. This can present difficulties to those who need to understand the powerful outcomes that EAT&L can deliver,” says Mr Moore.
One Equine has identified key objectives including building awareness of the beneficial outcomes of all aspects of EAT&L, accessing funding to promote research, becoming an influential and credible voice for the sector, forming international collaborations to share, promote and transfer best practice and to provide forums for practitioners to develop collaborations which lead to better, cheaper, faster outcomes for clients.
The organisation has already held meaningful talks with four NI government departments including Health, Education, Justice and Agriculture. It will be publishing a report which provides a profile of equine assisted services in Northern Ireland and gives an insight into the experiences of local people that have benefited from them.
It is the first paper of its kind to review the contribution which EAT&L is making to the wellbeing of individuals and their families in Northern Ireland. The personal experiences of EAT&L included in the report not only reflect its breadth and depth, but also demonstrate the potential positive outcomes for people who are experiencing a range of challenges – physical, mental, emotional, and educational.
EAT&L services can differ greatly in approach and methods, from physiotherapy and occupational therapy led Hippotherapy for people with physical challenges, to Equine Psychotherapy facilitated by a qualified counsellor or psychotherapist, to Equine Assisted Learning where the focus is on learning through interaction with horses.
Despite the modality or purpose of the therapy, EAT&L is often about treating the whole person; physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally. EAT&L, in all forms, has potential as a valuable complementary therapy to more traditional interventions or even as an effective alternative for those who are not responding to conventional therapies.
In Northern Ireland there are currently many types of equine therapy services being provided to people with a diverse range of needs. In the report, a number of people reflect on their personal experiences of equine therapy and their contributions provide valuable insight into the potential impact of this type of therapy.