The Quick Answer
Most certification bodies in the Equine and Animal Assisted Therapy fields have an internship/ practicum requirement and I am approached by far more people who would like to volunteer at Healing Hooves than I can find work for.
So, is it the old, ‘I need the experience to be certified, but I need to be certified to get someone to hire me?’
It doesn’t have to be.
Some ideas for getting work experience in Equine and/ or Animal Assisted Therapy include:
- Programs that offer school groups often look for volunteers who have some training in EFW.
- Ask your EFW/ AAT trainer; they may have opportunities within their program and/ or have past graduates who are looking for volunteers or staff within their programs.
- Once you are part way through your training you may be able to volunteer as an assistant on a training you have already completed. EFW Canada allow you to gain 20 of your 85 internship hours this way.
- Some programs (including EFW Canada) allow certification candidates to gain some of their internship hours facilitating practice sessions with each other. EFW Canada allow you to gain 15 of your 85 internship hours this way.
- If you have a client base, horses, facility, insurance and adequate supervision you can start working with ‘real’ clients during/ as a part of your internship, and be paid for this work.
- Join a social media group for people practicing EFW and offer your services. All Healing Hooves trainees and graduates are invited to join our facebook group where you are welcome to post opportunities and requests re EFW and AAT work opportunities.
- Make sure that all of the above is completed with both insurance and supervision in place!
The Longer Answer
Most certifying bodies require you to both meet a minimum hours requirement in your pre-existing field for your area of certification (for example, equine experience) plus an internship/ practicum requirement where you need to gain some EFW practice hours, usually while working under the supervision of a certified EFW mentor.
Internship Requirements and Options
Your 85 practice hours can be met in several ways:
Start or Extend you own Practice
Volunteer with an Existing Program
Other programs I frequently recommend include Whispering Equine and Dreamcatcher Nature Assisted Therapy.
If you gain your experience this way it may also include some free training and supervision.
Finding Work Experience Opportunities
Pre Existing Areas of Experience
- Volunteering at a therapeutic riding program;
- Volunteering at a horse rescue program;
- Taking riding and/ or horsemanship lessons with a certified equine professional;
- Attend pony club/ 4H sessions/ riding lessons with your child;
- Attending or auditing horsemanship clinics;
- Volunteering at a horse camp.
- Volunteering on a crisis help line;
- Taking a college or high school level communications course;
- Volunteering at a summer camp program;
- Volunteering at a therapeutic riding program.
If you found this article helpful, please share it!
What about you? If you have any questions or suggestions about how and where to get experience in the Equine and Animal Assisted Therapy fields please share them in the comments below. We would love to hear from you!
Would volunteer hours count if they were at a facility using the Epona approach, would like to try to see various offerings, client bases, methods.
Yes, these hours would most likely count as most Epona approaches would fit within the EFW Canada philosophies re. ethics, safety and role of the horse. The hours would still need to be supervised by an EFW Canada mentor who understands both the approach you are trained in and the one you are following at your placement but this can be done through phone supervision
To clarify, as an example, if I audit a horsemanship clinic, I have to have a mentor in place first?
or if attending riding lessons with your child, they won’t count as equine hours until the mentor is in place?
The examples you have provided would both enhance your horsemanship hours, as a part of building your portfolio on the equine skills and experience side. You do not need a mentor in place for gaining these hours plus you can can count all the equine hours you have from the past. The mentor needs to be in place for your practicum hours – the 85 hour requirement for you to gain experience specifically in EFW working with clients.
So I don’t quite understand–we will need to do 85 hours of EFW practicum work, plus other hours in our main field, i.e., for me, that would be psychology? Sorry, it is getting late and my brain is no longer top notch 😉
Great questions Diane!
You are actually asking about two different areas of requirements:
1) your pre requisite hours and credentials in your existing field – as a mental health professional, equine professional etc. This is what you already have BEFORE training in EFW and helps define your scope of practice. EFW Canada have the hours and minimum credentials for each area defined on their website – it is quite defined for the mental health professional for legal reasons (e.g. you need to be governed a certifying MH body) but more flexible on the EP and EFLP side.
2) Your practicum requirements specifically in EFW work which you complete as a part of your EFW Canada . This is the 85 hours.
I hope this helps!
This was a relief to read, as I was previously under the understanding that I would have to pay to do an internship with another organization. I am really excited that I can extend my existing practice with supervision to acquire these hours.
I appreciated the tips on equine hours. Is there a maximum number of hours that we can record as equine hours via taking riding/horsemanship lessons with a certified professional? Alternately, if we are pursuing something like Equine Canada rider levels, are we only able to count reaching a certain level, e.g. level 3 of western riding or level 6 of English riding, towards these required equine hours?
Good questions Shreyasi! EFW Can usually look at the total picture and balance of the equine hours and how well this relates to your scope of practice, rather than defining how many you are allowed in each category.
The areas that are defined are that 250 need to be in groundwork/ equine psychology, 1,000 need to be with you in a leadership position and 500 of those with novices.
Thanks for the above questions. This has helped me figure this out and is a bit more clear.
It is good to have the breakdown of how to earn these hours. Past volunteer experience does that count? I volunteered with scouts Canada for 10 years but that was ages ago. What is the breakdown of equine vs human services hours required?
Yes, past hours will count. There is n time limit set right now in terms of how far back you can go, but I do recommend that people make sure that a good portion of hours are reasonably current.
There are different pre requistes for each certification stream so if you are going for EP you are mainly looking at equine hours, if you are looking at certification as an EFLP or MHP you will also need the human service hours and credentials.
Hope this helps!
I am not sure that the person I was hoping would be a mentor for me is EFW-Can certified, so that Is something I will have to look into when I get to that level of certification. I really appreciate some of the ideas listed in the article that will help me increase my hours of experience with horses like camps and horse rescues. Thank you.
Thank you for the breakdown. It is great to know that we could possibly get paid, or at least not have to pay to complete our practicum hours. I am a little concerned about finding a mentor that is EFW certified. Many of the programs I have found seem to follow an alternate approach.
You are welcome Tara. I will be able to connect you with an EFW-Can certified mentor, or provide you with the mentor hours myself, so no need to worry on that count. And remember your mentor does not have to be physically present during your practicum – you just need to do supervision (which can be by phone) which needs to include some case consults which reflect your practicum hours.
There is just so much to think and learn about. I appreciate all of the questions that people have asked as this helps me navigate through my options and understanding of what I need to do to gain the proper training and skills needed to become an effective equine therapist.
I will team up with Carrie Watson and volunteer at her place. I am also currently in the Social Work program at school, is my school practicum could count as hours?
I also offer horse safety course currently, should I start recording those hours?
Great that you have teamed up with Carrie!
I think you said you got your questions answered within the next blog post but if there is anything you are still unsure of please do let me know!
Thank you for the breakdown on the different requirements! It is so nice to have something like this prior to starting the training to start thinking about in advance. As well, the different suggestions are very helpful in sorting it all out!
Thank you for all the information on how to gain practise hours. I appreciate all of the ideas and networking suggestions. I’m excited to learn about the EFW centres near
This is definitely an area that I will need help sorting through. I am not yet very connected in the horse world, but am excited to make connections and get started!
Having a paid practicum would be ideal. I am looking forward to discussing this during the ‘in-class’ portion of the exploration training!
Reassuring to hear that there are many different ways to gain experience while working through certification. What I picked up on most was the importance of supervision and that it is fundamental to the certification process!
It is great to hear of all the various ways of gaining experience in a field I previously thought was so insular. I have plenty of human service volunteer hours but would love to gain more equine hours and am looking forward to exploring volunteer opportunities or various trainings to build competency.
I like that there are many ways to gain the hours for certification. So here’s a question: I worked 4 summers at a non-profit kids camp for kiddo’s with physical, emotional, mental, and financial challenges. Would those hours count towards my certification or do the hours have to be more up-to-date?
When you suggest “start working with ‘real’ clients as part of the internship, can these clients be family? Also, has EFW instigated a time limit yet on how far back past volunteer experience can go? I have “interned” programs in personal growth at the Haven in BC on ‘self responsible relational living’. Thanks!
You can do some of your practicum hours with extended family members but to be honest I don’t usually recommend this if you have any other options. We do brainstorm and help you find ways to get these hours met during trainings.
All of your practicum hours have to take place after you have your mentorship arrangement in place and I don’t usually recommend you start this until after your first week of focus training.
Volunteer hours you have from the past would still be counted though – most likely within your pre requisite hours for EFL or EP experience or cross training hours of you are not aiming for dual certification.
If this is confusing please don’t worry – I explain it all more at the trainings and in mentoring sessions and help you figure out how best to meet these requirements and where to count the hours you already have.
I hope this helps!
Ok, so 85 hours doing what I do already ~ teach people to ride horses. Then 85 hours teaming up with someone who is a MHP doing EFW? Numbers and my brain…. eeekkkk!!! I’m sure this will all start to make more sense once I start! 🙂
The 85 hours is the practicum requirement which is 85 supervised hours of EFW work – so it will be different than your riding instruction hours. Your riding instruction hours will count towards your EP pre-requisite requirement. Most people start the practicum hours after they have completed at least one week of focus training. And yes – once you’ve been through all the material in your distance ed. manual and have attended the exploration training this will all start to make much more sense! There is lots of time to ask questions at the exploration training plus sessions at each training where we explore the certification requirements and options and help you develop your own personalised plan for developing your program and becoming certified. It is quite normal to be a bit confused and/ or overwhelmed at first but please be reassured that it all makes more sense as you move forward. You are welcome to keep asking me questions and also to post questions within the Healing Hooves FB group for trainees and graduates. There are lots of members there who have been in your shoes recently but are now certified/ close to certified who you can chat with.
I hope this helps!
I am a certified Equine Assisted Learning Facilitator through Cartier farms and have a program going. I am thinking my training for that could be counted as my pre-existing and my program could be practicum hours?
Those hours would for sure be counted somewhere! Depending on the nature of the hours I would say most likely within either your EP or EFLP pre requisite hours. You need to have a Pro EFW mentor in place before you can start counting hours towards your practicum (85 practice hours) and most people wait till after Foundation training (used to be called focus week one) to start those.
Wow, this is great information! Thank you for the clarification on how to gain experience. I’m interested in checking out Dreamcatcher Nature Assisted Equine! Looks like a great place!
Hi Steph! Yes, Dreamcatcher is a wonderful program and a great place to explore especially if you are interested in working with non equines. That being said she also has horses there and a very special donkey, called Ceilidh, who I rescued from an auction about 18 years ago! Eileen actually started off her training with Healing Hooves close to 20 years ago now – and has gone on to develop an amazing program. She truly is a great example of what all you can develop in this field.
I feel a bit overwhelmed by all of this because I have zero experience and am starting from nothing. It seems like everyone else here already has experience, is this process going to take a lot longer for me because I am starting with nothing? Or is the 2 year approximate timeline for someone like me?
Hi Kirsten – my guess is that you are likely underestimating much of what you already have in place, as most people do! The EFL pre-requisites can be met on a portfolio basis plus, as a teacher, you already have a strong scope of practice from the EFL side. Plus you have owned your own horse so have some equine experience too which may not take you to the full EP level but will give you some grounding on the tables of expertise. You are also allowed (encouraged!) to work on building your pre-requisite (and I do realise the term pre-requisite is a bit misleading here!) concurrently with your EFW training. Part of what we do in the second part of the intro training is help you figure out what it is you want to develop/ do in the EFW/ AAT field and what you need to get in place to get there given where you are now. We then help you develop a plan to get there. I hope this helps!
I appreciate that you’ve included examples on how to gain some work experience in EFW and AAT. What stuck out to me in your examples was the point stating that “once you are part way through your training you may be able to volunteer as an assistant on a training you have already completed. EFW Canada allow you to gain 20 of your 85 internship hours this way.” I find this very helpful in terms of gaining hours and experience especially in training you’ve just acquired. Good on EFW-Canada for facilitating this.
I appreciate all of the ideas on how to gain the hours needed!
This was great. Often times people find themselves stuck in a mindset of “I’m not in training yet.” or “I don’t want to wait to get started”. I think any hands on experience you can get will be beneficial in the end. Learn to ride, volunteer at facilities, find an animal friendly friend who can support your desire to get involved. And and all experience/knowledge is never wasted!
Since I read this post a couple of weeks ago for the first time this has been something I have been giving a lot of thought to. I live quite far away from other places that I am aware of that do any type of equine therapy and so I wonder where I would get my hours from. At this time I don’t really know anyone who has horses either so I am not quite sure where to start. I also wonder what would be the most beneficial for my training. I like the idea of getting to work and doing some of these hours actually with clients as I am confident in my therapist skills but then I wonder about my skills and comfort levels with horses. Lots to think about!
Hi Liz – an approach some MH therapists who have limited access to horses have used early on is to incorporate stories about horses into client sessions. With many sessions going online I think that is a good way to go right now too! I am actually working right now on using these as a part of the online segment of our foundations training. Another approach could be to incorporate the client’s own animals into sessions if that was a option for you?
This is excellent information. I have checked out a couple of local places – but I think after doing some reading, I think I’ll start contacting places for more detailed information – specifically if they are EFW Canada mentors! More things to add to my list 🙂
Do you happen to know if the EFW AAT training you provide meets any of the course requirements or hours required for someone to be certified as a Registered Psychologist? I am required to take several courses in addition to my Masters degree to meet the CPA requirements for certification and it would be great if there was some overlap.
The courses are accepted as continuing ed. for many prof. bodies (eg. CCPA and ACSW) but I’m not sure if they would meet the CPA certification requirements. That would be something you would need to ask them
I am so relieved to read that our supervision hours can be completed over the phone, and that we can ask for assistance in connecting with a supervisor.
As a MH therapist with no current access to horses, it is encouraging to know that there is room for flexibility in use of stories about horses or inviting clients to consider their own animals as part of the therapeutic process. I am looking forward to learning more about the utilization of such approaches in practice!
yes, and this is proving to be even more helpful and necessary right now for all of us! I did a client session through Zoom today with my client with her own dog and drawing on one of our therapeutic stories
Just to clarify, I can use my previous experience volunteering at Whispering Equine towards my hours then? And also, if you own your own horse, can that factor in as well?
These hours would most likely be counted within your prerequisite hours (either equine or EFL). Probably not as practicum hours as they were before you started any Pro EFW training.
Yes – time spent with your own horse can be included within you EP prerequisite hours
I just read the following post and that clarified my questions, haha.
This is another great resource when setting goals around certification. It also helps put my mind at ease knowing I can take small steps forward to gain experience (dip my toe in) rather than jump all in without having built the confidence per say.
Looks like there are some great options to meet this certification need. Thank you for providing them!
Thanks for these details – I will be doing some practicum hours within a local therapeutic riding program – in a new EFW stream that we will create. Can a mentor be certified with CanTra, PATH, EAGALA? or only Pro-EFW?
Hi Michelle – great questions! For the ten mentoring hours required by Pro EFW the hours need to be with a Pro EFW mentor. But you are certainly able, and encouraged, to access additional support and mentoring from others in this and related fields. Working with a CanTRA TR program and coach can be a great way to approach this work.
Previous EFW individual and group sessions would count in which section?
Hi Mandoline – it depends on what was involved in the sessions but they would for sure count somewhere – probably equine or EFL pre requisite hours
I am limited in my province on where I could get this experience…
I’d suggest posting a query in the Healing Hooves FB group – I think we likely have more people in your vicinity than you realise, and others are likely looking for opportunities to collaborate and connect too!
My concerns in gaining these hours resonate with Melanie (above @mreyclark)comment… being remotely located. I will research further options around auditing and utilizing resources like the social media groups to try and source out options as close to me as possible….
Wow, this is a lot to take in. I’m doing my practicum at Therapeutic Riding for my counselling degree. Would this count for both the human service experience and the equine experience? Or does it just count for one of these areas?
This will probably earn you hours in both areas – depends on what you are doing and with who!
I really like the idea of volunteering at a crisis helpline. thank you
You are welcome Jennifer! Many years ago I volunteered on a sexual assault helpline and this provided me with great experience (and training) while also being an opportunity to give something back
even when we have experience in different areas it all sounds overwhelming…. also interested to learn where my lifetime experience with horses and daughter’s pony club, riding lessons, teaching novices, clinics and auditing etc. land me in the hours completed realm
Hi Aprille – this is something Deb will explore with you throughout the advanced trainings – but I’m anticipating the experience you describe will all count towards your EP pre requsiste hours and portfolio. I’d recommend starting to document it all now with as much details as you can remember!
I look forward to continuing this conversation as in my question in Section 11 🙂 thanks, Sue.
I found it interesting that a college or high school level communications course hours could be counted as a way to gain Human Service hours. Could you give me an example of a course? Also, would my social work background provide me with my human service hours?
Yes – your social work background should certainly provide you with some LP pre requisite hours. We do look at this with you in coordination with your scope of practice so it is more than just the number of hours – the nature of the hours need to also support your scope of practice as you define it. We help you with this in the scope of practice parts of the more advanced trainings and also through mentoring! I don’t believe Pro-EFW have a list of courses they recommend – but anything that focuses on working with people/ developing leadership/ communication skills I think would be recognised.
I think this will continue to make more sense as I complete more training. I’m unsure exactly what of my specific hours in the fields will count.
Thank you for some more information.
you are welcome Denay – and don’t worry, we help you figure this out through ongoing training and mentoring!
Well I’m pleasantly surprised, that at my age, I have many more credible hours than I thought, when I think back to all the horsemanship, or sorting events, or rodeo events, or barrel racing and 4-H events, I think I may have not given enough credit to age…and experience….
you are welcome CharMaine – yes, it all adds up!
Great article on how to gain hours and experience
This was an incredibly helpful article! I am curious, for the Pre Existing Areas of Experience, the examples listed are to volunteer for camps, therapeutic riding programs, etc. What if I ran an equestrian camp, or was paid to work for a therapeutic riding centre? Would the hours count if it was paid, or is it only volunteering hours that count for the Pre Existing Areas of Experience? Thanks so much!
HI Riley – paid experience definitely counts here too!
Great article on where you can get hours and experience. Lots to think about and start calculating the hours I do already have.
yes – starting to document these hours now will save you time later on – and likely reassure you that you have more experience than you realise!
Super helpful article, there are loads of opportunities out there I’m sure, just have to go looking. Thank you for the ideas.
This has been extremely helpful having a break down of the hours needed. I am still trying to process and will have to figure supervision of a certified EFW Canada mentor here in Winnipeg. Sue how would I find out if there is someone in or near Winnipeg who is a certified EFW Canada mentor? If not I will have to explore the option of having supervision online.
There is a list of mentors on the Pro-EFW site under the section where they list certified members. Most people do their mentoring by zoom/ phone though as mentors are not required to be present during the client session. I hope this helps!
This article answers my questions on horsemanship hours. Thanks.
Thank you Sue for all the valuable information on options and opportunities available to us. Definitely takes the pressure off knowing you’ve provided us with a great list and that you help guide us through this.
Very helpful, I am going to have to start counting my horsemanship clinic trainings!
I will be interested to learn more about how past hours can count toward our equine hours in our preexisting area of experience. I like the idea of counting hours of attending Pony Club with our child (I have lots of those hours!) and our own riding/horsemanship lessons. All the required hours do sound a little confusing at this point, but I am trusting that as we take this one step at a time, how to gain experience and count hours will become more clear in my mind.
we discuss this more at each step of the training – most people underestimate what they already have in place!
I hear you Andrea! The required hours do seem a bit confusing and daunting but I keep reminding myself to just take it slowly and trust the process. I notice a theme in Sue’s remarks that this feeling is natural, to be expected and will become much clearer for all of us as we progress through training.
Great information – speaks to the importance of documenting our past activities in horsemanship.
Thanks for all the information. I will be referring back to this page.
Appreciate the break down and some examples. As we progress I am sure things will become clearer as to what path I am most drawn to and aligned with. Then what I need to do to fill in the gaps
we do go over it all at every training too Jenn. People often find it quite overwhelming at first but it becomes clearer as we review it!
Lots to think about for sure! I’m wondering if you, Sue, supervise provisional psychologists? Working at Healing Hooves in some capacity would be a wonderful opportunity to work towards both my provisional and Pro-EFW hours and gain experience with horses!
I’m not a registered psychologist myself so can’t provide that supervision unfortunately!
I appreciate that we are able to start practicing with supervision during Focus training. I see this process to be similar to the practicum portion of a Masters program. However, I would also love to learn from / with other professionals. I will have to do some more digging for those up in my area.
Hi Charis – you’re also very welcome to post on the HH FB group to see if there is anyone close to you to connect with!
Great idea! Thank you Sue!
So much to think about! I believe that Dreamcatcher’s is near me, so I will be reaching out to them. If not I will have to do more research for the Edmonton Area.
We actually have quite a few students and graduates in the Edmonton area! If you’d like to post a request on the FB group and let people know where you are and what you’re looking for you’ll hopefully hear back from a few different people!
Thanks again Sue for another blog post that helps make the certification process more clear. The amount of hours can seem daunting at first so having the breakdown and different options presented in a concise way is super helpful!
It is refreshing to hear that EFW and their collaborating partners encourage towards placements that do not require a person to pay for their practicum. Just that perspective alone within the field makes me feel supported in gaining credentialling through EFW.
Yes! This is something I feel is so very important and do my best to help students find practicum placement where they are treated fairly
That is helpful that 15 of the 85 hours can be in practice sessions with peers training in EFW. Sets up a win-win situation for both parties and I am sure some great learning opportunities.
Lots of great information here – I appreciate the fact that those in training do not have to pay for their practicums – those of us doing social justice work don’t typically have piles of spare cash to throw at additional trainings and certifications. I believe this is incredibly powerful work and this is a help for those wishing to explore this path!
I would caution here that there are definietly many places still out there that would charge people to get practicum like experience – I just recommend searching for the ones that don’t!
Residing in rural or remote areas can limit access to opportunities for experience given the lack of specialized programs often available, so thank you for providing some specific options that give a starting point!
Lots of helpful tips and practical advice here, thank you!
While I am not interested in pursuing equine work myself at this time, this overview has sparked some thoughts around exploring my options to connect with another therapist in my city who is including AAT in their work. I would also love to spend time observing equine work in action because I believe it can certainly contribute to my development around the work I am doing with a canine.
Another great article–so many helpful tips! The tips are very helpful in planning this journey.
I have spoken to others who have been ‘certified’ by a program who have tried to get the business off the ground but have failed, mostly because the business side of things was not addressed in any of their trainings. Do any of the courses recognized by Pro-EFW provide business education?
The Pro EFW trainers all focus on training students in EFW, as training people in business would be out of scope for most of us. We do however support our students in finding specialised training and support in any of the areas where this is needed, and this is usually going to differ for each person. For some students this may mean additional horsemanship training, for some it would be marketing, for others in may be taxes. Pro EFW also provides free seminars on various subjects for students and practitioners and there was one not that long ago on taxes within an EFW context. This was delivered by a Pro-EFW professional who has tax prep within her pre existing scope of practice. During our more advanced trainings at Healing Hooves I will support students in the further development of the mission and vision statements they prepared during explorations which can be used within a business plan, and we will also explore some logistical questions such as facility development/ planning, billing, marketing etc – but all within the context of this not being my primary scope of practice – in these areas I can simply share my experiences and learnings and then guide students on where to get the help they may need. Some areas Pro-EFW trainings (Foundations and on) do explore in more depth include paperwork and record keeping required for EFW, insurance, how to structure an EFW group, session planning and session debriefs.
Forgot to include – we’ve had various mentor groups for HH students where we explore topics of interest to students and these will sometimes include business ish topics – e.g. we had several on marketing and developing an ‘elevator speech’. Again, I just ned to be aware of scope of practice and of not presenting myself as an expert in things that I’m not!
Great article on some creative ways to build upon experience while training and moving forward – thanks Sue!
Hi Sue, just a quick question, would volunteering with RDA count at all towards the 20 of the 85 practice hours, as I realise it’s a different approach entirely and with a different client base to the one I would be looking at working with in EFW?
This would most likely count within your horsemanship hours (still helpful and important!) rather than practice hours – unless you can show that the RDA program is doing EFW work in which case you’d also need to have these hours supervised by a Pro EFW mentor (the last part would be easy to set up!)