Innovation of education in hippotherapy - Extending lector competences - meetings

The Czech Equine Facilitated Therapy Association (CEFTA) is a part of the ERASMUS + project 2018-1-CZ01-KA204_048149, where our mission is to assist our colleagues from Turkey and Bulgaria build their own education system. There are 8 lecturers from each country. The project lasted for two years with 4 meetings. It was a great challenge for us and we enjoyed it very much!

Involvement in international cooperation brought invaluable benefits to all participants: inspiration, mutual learning, collaboration and support, breaking down prejudices and gaining friendship. All lecturers enhanced their experience, expertise and skills in EFT methodology, knowledge and practice needed to implement in the quality teaching process. The other benefits include improvement in language the IT skills.

Brno, Czech Republic 27 - 31 March 2019

End of March we organised the first meeting in Brno. All of us arrived on Wednesday evening to meet for dinner in a lovely hotel with a great restaurant. 27 participants from different professions and age came to the meeting. We were delighted with the presence of many young people to willing to learn. 

Every morning we started with a theory part in the conference hall. Our Bulgarian and Turkish partners introduced their team and centres. We discussed the status of Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies (EAAT) in our countries and the level of education in this field. Continuing topics were the Czech educational and health care systems, introduction to Hippotherapy in Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy, Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL), Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP), a therapy horse training, etc.

After lunch, we always drove to the EFAT centre Epona, z.s. about 30km outside the Brno. We prepared a lot of games with horses applied in EFL and EFP, showed the equipment, demonstrated the therapy sessions and para-vaulting exercises, therapy horse preparation, etc.

The days were intense demanding for attention and energy from all of us. We were amazed by our partners' cooperation and eagerness to try all the activities. All of us learnt a lot and had fun as well. We were lucky for the perfect weather. Evenings were devoted to dinner and sharing the experience and to be friends.

For the Czech team, it was the first experience with the Erasmus+ project, but we learnt a lot about our readiness and cooperation. We enjoyed it very much and already looking forward to Varna at the end of June 2019. We are going to discuss the educational courses in details. 

Varna, Bulgaria - 20 to 23 June 2019

The second educational activity took place from 20 to 23 June 2019 in Varna, Bulgaria, attended by 24 project participants and four interested parties from the Bulgarian partner as guests at their own expense. Since March 2019, our foreign partners have undergone significant changes. The Bulgarian team was at the birth of the Bulgarian Equine Therapy Association. Simultaneously, the Turkish partner increased individual lecturers' qualifications (e.g. completed PhD studies on EFA, habilitation of academic staff). The Bulgarian team presented the newly established teaching EFT centre in Varna, prepared a program on the topic of Psychology with horses' help, the Czech team prepared demonstrations of intensive hippotherapy and teambuilding involvement in games. Our partners approached their tasks very conscientiously, so a roundtable discussion could take place. The topic focused on preparing educational modules - how and on what basis to create a curriculum and final exams. The subject was also innovation through the introduction of e-learning education in combination with practical teaching. We consider our personal experience essential; through the knowledge gained, project participants could already prepare and facilitate the teaching process in their countries.

Nevsehir, Turkey - 26 to 30 September 2019

The third educational activity took place from 26 to 30 September 2019 in Nevsehir, Turkey, on the Nevsehir Haci Bektas Veli University premises. Employees of the University Department of Physical Education and Sport plan to include courses on therapeutic riding and AVK in the education curriculum. In 2018, the construction of the "Equestrian Application and Research Center" was started within the university, which received full support after Brno and Varna (the university secretary-general also took part as an administrator). The Turkish partner welcomed us to the newly opened equestrian centre and introduced eight new horses. He presented the work of the university's laboratory and its connection to research in the field of EFT. The domain of the Turkish partners will be Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL). They have prepared an exciting program with demonstrations of games and work in the field of EFL.

The Czech team assisted during the hippotherapy treatment sessions. An interesting experience for all was the preparation of horses for EFT. The new horses do not yet have the necessary specialization training. All participants in the meeting participated. An exciting experience was discussing many horse breeds and the certification program for horses included in EFT. Our partners presented models of their educational programs; the Bulgarian team has already applied for accreditation. The Czech team submitted a proposal for an e-learning educational program, which will be pilot-tested as part of teaching in October 2019. An excellent experience for our team was the preparation of e-learning as a means of innovation in education. We also evaluate the improvement of the language equipment of the program participants positively. The last meeting in June 2020 will focus on creating a methodology and evaluating e-learning available to our partners for testing. Due to all partners' activity, we believe that the project program will be fulfilled in terms of content and schedule.

Prague, Czech Republic - 18 to 21 January 2021

The fourth educational activity took place from 18 to 21 January 2021 in Prague. According to the project schedule, the initially planned activity was to take place from 10 to 13 June 2020 in Prague. We informed the National Agency about the relocation of the meeting to Prague. The main reason was our foreign partners' interest to get to know other workplaces of Equine Facilitated Therapy (EFT); due to the measures introduced in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, the activity had to be cancelled. We were looking for an alternative solution. Based on an agreement with our partners, we requested an extension of the project duration. Our application was approved, and the project was extended for 30 months from 1 September 2018 to 28 February 2121. The second scheduled date from 13 to 16 October 2020 was also postponed due to the ordered state of emergency and travel restriction, especially for foreign participants.

We were all in contact with the House of Foreign Cooperation staff, and together we tried to find the most suitable solution because we were all interested in completing the project as planned. Throughout, the ČHS implementation team was in contact with the implementation teams of our partners. It was crucial to maintain communication between the individual partners of the project, creating a discussion forum such as counselling, providing telephone support, video conferencing - skype/zoom conferences, and contacts via social networks, where we shared our news and shared the joy of progress.

After all partners' agreement, the fourth last activity was planned from 18 to 21 January 2021 in Prague. This activity took place despite the problems with the restrictions introduced in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. The working meeting was attended by 24 current and future EFT lecturers. The aim was to get acquainted with EFT operation in two Prague centres - SRAZ, z.s. and Caballinus, z.s. Another meeting program was creating a practical tool - a handbook – Introduction to Methodology of Hippotherapy - Equine Facilitated Therapy (EFT), making the educational program's concept and syllabus via e-learning tools. Each of the partners presented their proposal for educational programs. Bulgaria's team prepared a training program based on Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy and Learning (EFPL) techniques, a Turkish partner training program for EFT assistants. The discussion also covered practical issues such as teaching in courses, the organization and management of its teaching EFT process, the use of e-learning, promotion and accreditation. Together, we managed to complete our outputs and other work goals beyond the project's scope. Following our partners' example, the Czech team has prepared e-learning educational activities for those interested in EFT of a more informative nature, which will also be conducted in English. Our partners have already shown great interest.

Our partners from Bulgaria and Turkey are already presenting new educational activities on their social networks, based on the experience gained during the Erasmus + project, in which we have participated together. These educational activities will be led by the lecturers who participated in the project.