Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Horsemanship-Therapeutic use, Horsemanship-Psychological aspects, Equine therapy, Horses, Rescue animals, Equine-assisted psychotherapy, Animal-assisted therapy, Mental health treatment, Attachment theory, Attachment behavior, Animal rescue-Psychological aspects, Animals-Therapeutic use


This project utilized qualitative interviews to examine therapist perspectives at an Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) program in Boulder, Colorado. The program, called the HopeFoal Project, pairs rescue foals with high-risk teen girls; a reciprocal healing model is employed in which teen and foal are engaged in a parallel process of trust-building and healing from traumatic early experiences. The program is unique in its use of unpredictable or difficult horses in treatment, as well as in its use of a reciprocal healing model. Semi-structured, open-ended interviews were conducted with three program therapists to gain a better understanding of the program. Findings revealed the importance of using an attachment theory model to understand the foals' and the teens' early experiences and their subsequent ways of relating in the world. Additional findings supported current EAP research regarding the horse's role as a nonjudgmental other, the horse as mirror to provide reflection on the client's life, the immediacy of feedback and present-moment qualities of the farm environment, and the capacity for empathy building in clients participating in equine therapy. Lastly, this study revealed clear differences in treatment approaches between EAP with difficult horses and more traditional EAP programs that use well-trained school horses.




iii, 60 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2010. Includes bibliographical references (p. 54-55)