Training specialists for the preparation of therapy horses for Equine Facilitated Therapies and Activities


Project Reference:

A group of 24 experts from six European countries are connected to work on a common goal, to create an assessment tool for the therapy equines.

Coordinated by the CEFTA (The Czech Equine Facilitated Therapy Association) and from Věra Lantelme-Faisan and Vladimíra Casková as Physiotherapists specialized in Equine Facilitated Therapy created a European project to train specialists for horse preparation in equine facilitated therapy. They connected with Turkey, Lithuania, Portugal, Finland and Spain. The partners in the project are. Nevşehir Hacı Bektaş Veli University (Turkey), Horse Riding Association of People with Disabilities (Lithuania), The Kids Fellows Research Group (Portugal), The Finnish Association of Equine Facilitated Therapies (Finland) and Proyecto Caballo Association. 

Until 2023 these groups of professionals from the Equine Facilitated Therapies and Learning fields will collaborate, unite and share experiences in order to develop an assessment tool to observe and learn horse preparation in Equine Facilitated Activities and Therapies. Moreover, this project also intends to increase the understanding of the different curricula across Europe and linking a common framework across Europe.


Zoom meetings

Our kick-off meeting was held online in October 2020. The purpose of the meeting was to get to know each member of the project and to go over the task distribution and meeting topics written in the project application. All members submitted their detailed CVs to introduce themselves to others.

During the Project duration, we met several times, always before the face-to-face meeting. There were several meetings held for working groups to finalize partial tasks.

Vilademuls, Spain - 26 to 28 May, 2021

Our first face to face meeting was held in Spain in May 2021, from 26 to 28 in Vilademuls, a small countryside village with 40 equine partners near Girona (North East region of  Spain). The pillars of the meeting were: Animal sentience, Equine Quality of Life, Equine body language and Equine indicators of  and wellbeing proposed by Proyecto Caballo (Five freedoms plus the presence of positive welfare indicators: health, comfort and happiness). Unfortunately, the Turkish team could not arrive due to epidemiologic travel restrictions. The Finnish team was represented by one member on site for the same reason. All of them could join the meeting online, it was complicated, but we did our best. (All other team members took part in the meeting online as well as possible).

Královický dvůr, Czech Republic - 6 to 8 September, 2021

Our Second meeting occurred at Jezdecké Centrum Královický Dvůr, a Central Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic (6-9 September). This time all teams were present, and we could enjoy company and exchange of experience and knowledge face to face. We discovered and explored the different national breeds involved in Equine Facilitated Interventions (EFI) in each country. The Czech team demonstrated their view on Equine Facilitated Physiotherapy,- Learning and Paravoulting. The goal was to highlight the demands, way of handling and care of therapy equines. 

Intellectual outputs working groups
Equine Facilitated Psychiatry and Psychology - Portugal, Spain & Czech Republic
Equine Facilitated Learning and Social Care - Czech Republic, Spain and Turkey
Equine Facilitated Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy - Czech Republic,  Lithuania and Finland
Adaptive riding - Turkey, Portugal, Spain, Czech Republic, and Finland

Nevsehir, Türkiye - 12 to 15 June 2022

The Turkish partner organised the 3rd educational meeting in the beautiful Cappadocia region from 12 to 15 June 2022. All 6 teams met in the whole number, so we could commence working on our primary project outcome. We divided into four groups focusing on therapy equine demands in therapy sessions, training, and selection.

  1. Equine Facilitated Physiotherapy, Occupational and Speech Therapy group (EFPT, OT and ST)
  2. Equine Facilitated Psychology (EFP)
  3. Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL)
  4. Adaptive riding

It was a great experience and opportunity to listen to other opinions and views on these topics and find a common link. All members enjoyed the work, listened to and heard patiently to each other and sought conclusions. It was a unique experience.

We visited the EAS centre within the University premises, saw an adaptive riding lesson, and observed the University laboratory, a Police training centre for horses and dogs and a Mental home for women, clients of the Turkish partner. The meeting had a great spirit; we enjoyed being together and sharing our work and friendship.

Kurtuvėnai, Lithuania - 6 to 9 September 2022

This time we visited Lithuania. All members (24) from 6 countries were present. On Wednesday, we started the program with a guide to the history of the Kurtuvėnai manor, after which the work took place in the premises of the manor's tourist center.

In the workshop, we continued the work started in Turkey in four groups. We defined common core elements of working with and training equines, as well as the skills required of equine trainers and handlers in various therapies and equine-assisted activities. Each country also got to briefly present their own practices from equine training for EAS (equine assisted services).

On Wednesday afternoon, we went to the zoology unit of Šiauliai University. We got to know the different laboratories where they work with animal nutrition, breeding and the gene bank program for national breeds. We were also shown the national pony breed Zemaituka of Lithuania and is also popular in EAS.

On Thursday morning, we visited Kurtuvėnai, a horse stable owned by the Lithuanian state, where one of the organizers, a Lithuanian physiotherapist, offers EAS. There we followed two different work situations with two different horses, as well as the running techniques they used. Work demonstrations included using a lift with a therapy client and a horse, as well as adapted riding lesson.

We had time for leisure and to know the Lithuanian culture – horseback riding, walking tour, traditional dance and food.

Santarém, Portugal - 11 to 14 October 2022

On October 11 – 14, 2022, the meeting was held in Portugal, in the city of Santarém. Our program was complete, with information and discussions within the workshops on individual EAS fields and demonstrations prepared by the Portuguese team. Within the workshops, 4 groups worked on creating key questions in preparing equines for EAS and how to evaluate them. Members discussed the key issues for a long time and thus tried to prepare the maximum amount of materials to create standards. In the next part, each country presented a video demonstrating client interactions with equines as part of EAS lessons.

There was also a lecture on the native Portuguese Sorraia breed, who later presented themselves in practical demonstrations under saddle in the EFL. The Sorraia breed was also presented in a carousel performed by students from the Santarém High School of Agriculture, where the meeting took place. The Special Olympics demonstration was fascinating - a trail and dressage task performed by three competitors who regularly participate at the international level. An utterly breathtaking experience was the presentation of para-dressage at the international level by Ana Mota e Veiga and Pedro Félix and his Lusitano, who also demonstrated elements of a higher dressage level. Much credit for his flawless presentation goes to his trainer Francisco Cancela de Abreu, one of the best dressage trainers in Portugal.

The Erasmus+ project is not only focused on a targeted work result. It also includes getting to know individual cultures and countries, improving language skills and creating new friendships between meeting participants. It is also essential to exchange opinions and discuss different views on the given topic based on the differences between countries and their culture. The Portuguese team ultimately fulfilled the mission of getting to know the country's culture and traditions. We stayed in a beautiful Portuguese-style complex, tasted typical cuisine, and listened to traditional Fado music. We couldn't miss the public training at the Portuguese Riding School with Lusitano horses and a visit to Quinta de Lagoalva – an estate dealing with traditional agricultural production and breeding of the Lusitano.

 Kylämäki, Finland - 9 to 11 May 2023

The sixth project meeting took place in Finland for 24 participants. Over the course of three working days, the entire international team completed an interesting program. The Finnish team has prepared a very busy program, including learning about Finnish traditions. The accommodation and part of the program took place in the tourist centre on the Kylämäki family farm Hevostil. The owner of the farm Juha Kylämäki, introduced us to the operation of a horse farm focused on the breeding of the Finnish horse (Suomenhevonen) and introduced us to this typical Finnish breed, which is used for Equine Assisted Services (EAS). During the workshops, individual partners introduced designs and documents to stand out from the output of the whole project.

The next day we visited Equine College Hevosopisto in Ypäjä. National and local organizations own the college: Ministry of Education, Finnish Equestrian Federation, Suomen Hippos (Finnish trotter
and breeding organization) and municipalities YPäjä, Forssa and Jokioinen. Equine College is a training centre of the national riding team of Finland. Equine College Hevosopisto activities introduced us to powerful Director Heli Kivimäki-Manner and director of Päivi Niska. The college provides vocational and further education for all qualifications in the Equestrian Field in Finland. The total number of students is 280 in basic vocational education (at the level of higher high school) and 100 in further education. The school also supports education for Equine Facilitated Activities and Therapies. 250 horses are stabled in the school area, both Finnhorses and other breeds. The tour of Equine College ended in the classroom, where EAS was for those from all over Finland. Here Sanna Mäki-Tuuri of Hippolis (The National Equine Competency of the Association of Finland - the National Horse Breeding Association in Finland) introduced breeding and using horses in Finland.

On the third day, we visited the riding stable SJ Talli from Salola, where my colleague Sanna Jarvell and Anne Rokka operates. The colleagues from Finland introduced us to horses used for activities in EAS. A spacious riding arena then took place as a practical part of the workshop, where individual teams practically presented their designs for evaluating horses for EAS. The meeting was also a time to relax and the possibility of meeting and getting to know people from different countries and cultures. We met the traditions of horse breeding during the visit to Wiuril Manor; we had the opportunity to taste typical cuisine and, above all, to get to know the right Finnish sauna.

  Brno, Czech Republic - 25 to 28 June 2023

The final, seventh project meeting occurred in Brno, the head of the project coordinator - The Czech Equine Facilitated Therapy Association. During the three project days, the entire international team worked on the final form of the European standard for the preparation of equines for EAS and the model of their testing. All participants were actively involved in preparing the standard; each organization worked on the assigned task very carefully and responsibly, and the individual teams practically introduced their proposals for evaluating equine evaluation in EAS. Our international cooperation results in a newly created methodology: