A new qualification, the first of its kind, has been developed for equine assisted learning facilitators — people such as education and mental health professionals, teachers, social workers and psychologists who want to combine their love of horses with their professional skills and training.


The qualification, the OCNLR Level 4 Certificate in Facilitating Equine Assisted Learning, has been developed and approved through a partnership between specialist training provider EAQ (Equine Assisted Qualifications) Ltd and the national awarding organisation, OCN London. It is based on a successful course developed by EAQ that has been running in the UK and Australia since 2005. The aim of the qualification is to enable both existing equine assisted learning facilitators and people who want to work in this area to gain formal recognition for their knowledge and skills. 


Recent research in the paper titled ‘Effectiveness of a Standardised Equine Assisted Therapy Program for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder’ (published 2015 in the Journal of Autism and Development Disorders) highlighted the enormous benefits that many people with particular needs gain from contact with horses. For example, children and adults with autism, dyslexia and mental health issues have gained in confidence, learned new skills and experienced positive changes in their lives through close contact with horses.


A 10 year-old boy who was troubled for a range of reasons and not going to school began attending one of the EAQ approved centres. Within a few weeks his mother told them she could see a change in him. She said: “His whole general attitude is so much calmer, his whole body language, everything.” 


The skills and knowledge needed by facilitators are covered in the new qualification. The units include all aspects of the work of facilitators, from handling and managing horses through to planning and facilitating learning sessions for individuals and groups, safeguarding learners, communication skills and managing the behaviour of learners. 


EAQ Director Tricia Day said:  “Horses have been helping people for thousands of years but it is only recently that this has turned into a more formal method used in education and therapy. With the industry growing so quickly, there has been little in the way of regulation and standards to date, with many centres offering equine assisted learning sessions to children, young people and adults without their staff having undertaken any specific training. EAQ is delighted that this qualification will help us to set a high, professional standard for facilitators in the industry.”


Jacquie Mutter, Chief Executive of OCN London said:  “With the launch of this new qualification, those who already work as facilitators or who want to train to become one can now work towards formal recognition of their skills and knowledge in the emerging field of equine assisted learning. The work is highly skilled, involving dealing with people who have a wide range of emotional, physical and mental conditions. The benefits that people with a wide range of needs have experienced through contact with horses are immeasurable. So we are thrilled that this qualification will provide them with the national recognition needed and encourage others to train in this area.”

The qualification will be listed on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF). It is made up of six mandatory units that learners have to complete to achieve the full qualification. These units cover all aspects of the work of facilitators, from managing and handling horses through to planning and facilitating learning sessions for individuals and groups, safeguarding learners, communication skills and managing the behaviour of learners. The training will be delivered by a mixture of training days, assignments, observations and e-learning methods.

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