The Quick Answer

No, you don’t! There are several ways to do this work without owning your own facility or horses. On the other hand if you do have horses and a facility to work from this offers you many options, including partnering with another professional who may have training and credentials that are a good match for your facility and equine skills!

Remember that everyone on the team also needs training and certification in Equine Therapy which matches the scope of practice of their work and role within the program. 

Within the broader field of Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) the animal and handler are often trained and certified as a team which will usually require you to have your own therapy animal.  There are however many different ways of doing this work and certainly some that would allow you to work with someone else’s animals, for example on a therapeutic farm. Non equine animals are also often much more transportable meaning greater flexibility with regards to where you work, including the possibility of travelling with your animal partner to client and program venues. 

The remainder of this article refer mainly to equine work. That being said, many of the considerations also apply to working with animals others than horses.  If you have questions about working with non equines that we have not answered, please ask!

The Longer Answer

While there are certainly some benefits to working from your own facility with your own horses, it is possible (and sometimes preferable) to work from someone else’s facility and/ or with someone else’s horses. This can be particularly beneficial when you are first starting out, if you are still building your equine experience, or if you only plan to work part time or part of the year.

There are several different ways to do this. If you are a Mental Health or Equine Facilitated Learning Professional, partnering with an Equine Professional who has the facility and horses can be a great option. That way you bring the human services expertise and they provide the horse expertise (and the horses).

Alternatively, you may have the equine skills but just not the facility and/ or horses. In that case renting time and space at a facility is an option many people have used.

We find that people often meet potential work partners and come up with creative partnerships during training workshops. The facebook group we have created for training participants and graduates is also a great way to make these connections.

There are a number of considerations that are relevant wherever you work, but which usually require some extra thought and planning if you work out of someone else’s facility and/ or with someone else’s horses. These include:

  • Client Privacy and Confidentiality: The nature of your work and your client population will impact this consideration but all EFW practitioners need to be able to manage the potential for and impact of interactions with other people when working with a client in an EFW session. This is usually much easier to manage and control if you own the facility. If you work from someone else’s facility, particularly if the property owner or other people regularly access the same space, you will need to discuss this with the property owner and quite possibly also with your clients.
  • Insurance: We have a subsequent post dealing specifically with this question.  For now, just note that (at a minimum) general liability insurance, which extends to cover the nature of the EFW work you are doing, needs to be in place to cover you, the property owner, and horse owner/s.
  • Safety Standards: Ensuring the environment you are working within is safe for your clients, the horses and yourself is critical. This includes consideration of many factors including fencing, fire safety, first aid, state of the equipment, and general physical safety of the property. For example, you would not want to be working in a facility where there was loose wiring in the barn, old tractor parts in the yard or barb wire in the arena!
  • Horse Care, training and well being: Again, this a big topic which is explored in depth within most EFW training and is part of the Pro EFW learning objectives for training and certification. How the horses are selected, trained and cared for matters, and may be harder for you to influence when they are not your horses and/ or they don’t live with you. We explore this topic a little more in our next blog discussing the role of the horse in EFW and Equine Therapy and in depth within all of our training workshops. At Healing Hooves we dedicate a full day of each week of training to this critical aspect of the work and build it into to all aspects of our work.
  • You will also want to take time to build and maintain relationships with the horses that you will be working with. This can sometimes be a little harder with other people’s horses, but it is still usually possible, and is always beneficial. At Healing Hooves the relationship which a client develops with our animals is a key part of our therapeutic context, and much of our work will be done through and within the context of this relationship.  Facilitating such a relationship is much easier when you have a positive and healthy relationship with the animals yourself.  Again this does not mean you need to ‘own’ those animals in order to develop these relationships, but it certainly helps if you are able to spend a lot of time with them, including non work time. This relationship also makes it easier for you to care for the therapy animals you work with including understanding and meeting their physical and emotional needs, both within and outside of client session times.

All of the above considerations are explored in more depth within the distance education and onsite components of our Exploration Training.

Note: If you are unsure of any of the terminology or acronyms we used above please refer to our earlier blog post where we defined and reviewed these terms for you.

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Next Question: What is the Role of the Horse in Equine Therapy?

What about you? If you have any questions you’d like us to answer in this series, or questions on any of the above material, please use the comments section below!

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