© 2017-2019 by Molly Jahncke for Equine Reflections, Inc.

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The EAGALA Model

Equine Reflections, Inc. is proud to be one of the only organizations in Louisiana -- and the sole provider in St. Tammany Parish and the Greater New Orleans area -- to bring Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) and Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) services following the EAGALA Model to individuals and groups in need of mental health treatment or learning assistance. Our Treatment Team is EAGALA certified and thus adheres to the very highest clinical and ethical standards. For more information, visit the EAGALA website: www.eagala.org.

Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA)

EAGALA was founded in 1999 as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization developed to address the need for resources, education and professionalism in the fields of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) and Equine Assisted Learning (EAL). The association sets the standard for professional excellence in how horses and humans work together to improve the quality of life and mental health of individuals, families and groups worldwide. EAGALA now has more than 4,000 members in 49 countries and continues to grow. EAGALA Certified members commit to standards of practice and ethics, which include a minimum requirement of experience and education for the facilitating team.

EAGALA is the leading association offering a fully-developed, professionally endorsed treatment model for mental health professionals practicing equine assisted psychotherapy. The EAGALA Model stands alone in the world of equine-assisted psychotherapy and personal development because of the model’s standards, code of ethics, continuing education requirements, replicable framework, and team approach.

What is the EAGALA model?

The EAGALA organization describes the method as a “standard and structure for providing Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) and Equine Assisted Learning(EAL) sessions. Practicing within a model establishes a foundation of key values and beliefs, and provides a basis of good practice and professionalism. The EAGALA Model provides a framework of practice, but within that framework, there are infinite opportunities for creativity and adaptability to various therapeutic and facilitating styles.”

The most distinctive features of the EAGALA model are:

  • The Team ApproachBoth a registered, credentialed Mental Health Professional and a certified Equine Specialist work together collaboratively at all times, in all sessions, to assure clients get the therapeutic attention and support they need as they make life changes.

  • Focus on the ground – No horseback riding or horsemanship is involved. Instead, clients work directly with horses face-to-face on the same footing. Effective and deliberate techniques are utilized where the horses are metaphors in specific ground-based experiences. This on-the-ground work enables clients to better perceive the horses’ actions and reactions as they work to process and solve their life challenges. Under the trained eye of the EAGALA Treatment Team, horses offer clients honest feedback and usable information that help them understand how their process and actions affect others and impact their lives.

  • Solution-Oriented – The basis of the EAGALA Model is a belief that all clients have the best solutions for themselves when given the opportunity to discover them. Rather than instructing or directing solutions, the EAGALA Treatment Team allows clients to experiment, problem-solve, employ creativity, and find their own solutions that work best for them. Engaging the unique intuitive power of horses within the EAGALA model, the team helps clients understand their process and practice the changes they want to make in a safe, supportive setting.

  • Code of Ethics – EAGALA has high standards of practice and is the only association with a code of ethics AND a protocol for upholding those ethics, assuring the highest standard of care.

  • The Horse – Horses have many characteristics which lend them to being effective agents of change, including honesty, awareness, and ability with nonverbal communication. The role of the horses in an EAGALA session is to be themselves. Why horses? Click here to learn more!

  • The Mental Health Professional (MH) – The MH must be appropriately licensed and is responsible for treatment planning, documentation of clients, and ensuring ethical practice. The MH builds on the ES’s horse observations, bringing in the metaphoric and therapeutic/learning relevance of the session. Click here to meet our MH!

  • The Equine Specialist (ES) – The ES chooses the horses to be used in sessions, works with the MH to structure sessions, keeps an equine log to document horse behaviors in sessions, stays aware of safety and welfare of clients, horses, and team, and makes observations of horse behavior, which can bring in potential metaphors. Click here to meet our ES!


On horseback, people with physical disabilities receive many benefits from equine therapy. The gait of a horse moves the rider’s body in a similar way to the human body’s natural gait, thus helping with problems such as tightness and weakness, improving balance and core strength, and improving both gross and fine motor skills. The action of mounting and dismounting also develops strength and motor skills. Even ground work with horses -- such as grooming or adjusting tack -- engages both mind and body.

But did you know that horses are also powerful therapy partners for people with mental, behavioral or emotional problems? Humans are predators, and horses are prey animals; as such, horses' very survival depends on effectively reading their environment and perceiving minute changes in people through body language, tone of voice, and even biochemistry. They also have remarkable memories and can perceive emotions such as joy, relief, pain and fear. Able to read and respond to the nonverbal messages we are always sending, horses respond with unique and honest insight into exactly who we are in the moment. As social animals, horses have defined roles within their herds. They have distinct personalities, and an approach that works with one horse won’t necessarily work with another. Because of these and other unique capabilities, horses are teachers in awareness, authenticity, living in the present moment, developing trust, and setting boundaries. Due to their powerful physical presence, they are also an effective catalyst for overcoming fear and developing confidence.