Equine Assisted Learning (EAL)/Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP)

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) and Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) are experiential modalities that incorporate horses in activities designed to enhance personal growth and learning. We follow the EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) model, which uses a team approach focusing on clients finding their own solutions to problems. All EAL/EAP activities are conducted on the ground and there is no “teaching” of horsemanship. Our team includes Dr. Doreen Hughes and Laura Pallavicini, ES. Dr. Hughes is a psychiatrist in private practice and owner of Hughes Equine Energy, PLLC specializing in EAP and EAL. Laura Pallavicini is the program director, equine specialist and a certified therapeutic riding instructor at Riverwood. The third piece of our team is the horses. The human members of the team focus on both the nonverbal communication between the participants and the horses and on safety concerns. The horses help the client with transformation and awareness.

How does a session work?

Horses are used for multiple reasons. As prey animals, they are exquisitely sensitive to nonverbal stimuli, and they give clear and authentic feedback when interacting with others, including humans. As herd animals, horses are social and seek relationship. They have distinct personalities and differing roles in their herd. These factors result in opportunities for metaphorical learning that relate to other life situations. EAL/EAP is an effective treatment modality for individuals, couples, families and groups of all ages and with all types of diagnoses.

No session is ever the same but the team of therapists will choose activities for the individual or group based on feedback from the participant(s) during a pre-session briefing. There may be one or multiple horses loose in an arena and clients will be offered to spend time observing or meeting the horses. What comes next may be a hands-on activity that is explained by the therapist and then completed by the client; or it may be an opportunity for the client to spend time among the horses with no set agenda. Regardless of the plan for the day, the horses lead the way for change through their action and responses to the client(s) working with them. Some discussion may be necessary to help a client assess what they are taking part in but the majority of this type therapy is non-verbal.

Who Benefits?

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy is an effective treatment for mental health problems including mood and anxiety disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse, conduct difficulties, posttraumatic stress disorder, and anger management problems. These sessions focus on treatment goals. EAP is appropriate for any age and persons with any type of mental health diagnosis.

Equine Assisted Learning can be an empowering process for people dealing with personal, work or school stress, life transitions, grief and loss, relationships with others, communication and general daily life.

What We Offer:

  • Weekly equine assisted psychotherapy sessions for individuals and families
  • Group EAL and EAP sessions designed for specific needs such as team building, youth development and professional skills development
  • AHEC Workshops: Northwest Area Health Education Center partners to provide continuing education courses and workshops about EAP/EAL to area health professionals. For more information: www.northwestahec.org Veterans Program
  • Lead Mare: EAP group sessions to provide a powerful boost for women currently in therapy enabling them to break down barriers and progress in healing
  • Want to know more?

    Riverwood Therapeutic Riding Center currently offers Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning in conjunction with Hughes Equine Energy, PLLC. Sessions are offered weekly at the Riverwood farm in Tobaccoville, NC. For more information on these programs, please contact Laura Pallavicini at 336-922-6426 or rtrc@windstream.net.