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Practices of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging in Equine-Assisted Service Education

Room B

1.5 CE Hour

Presented By

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    In-Person, Live Webinar



At present, the combination of concerning levels of mental health challenges, licensed clinician workforce shortages, the sparse availability of evidence-informed practices, and barriers to formal mental health services create a need for alternative models of community care that can be delivered in non-office-based settings. One such opportunity is the practice of Equine Assisted Services, specifically Equine Assisted Learning and Psychotherapy. For individuals struggling with their mental health, the non-judgmental nature of horses can create a safe space for healing. Even with feet on the ground, the physical benefits of sharing space with horses can positively impact the mental health of clients.


While each experience with a horses is unique, the combination of physical, emotional, and interpersonal/species benefits associated with sharing space with horses makes them valuable co-facilitators of the therapeutic process. Within EAS education/training cultural competence and humility are not strategically and consistently centered. Thus, this research is a pilot study exploring student and graduate experience in EAS specific to DEIB within the HERD Institute.


In this qualitative study of student and graduate experiences, three distinct themes emerged from the data: (1) theme of intersectionality and self-reflexivity; (2) scope of practice; (3) the role of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging education. Findings from this study highlight participants’ experiences with structural systems of oppression as they relate to their own clinical/educational practice as well as their intersectional identity. Professionally, intersectional identities may influence career paths and positionality of professional self.


Data suggests that DEIB is a content area for learning, and an on-going practice. Practitioners may establish safety for their clients, which opens opportunities of curiosity, when they are aware of and able to identify their own intersectionalities, identities and those of their client. Through relational education, accountability, and framework, DEIB becomes an ethical consideration, rather than a learning content or vision statement.


Using the HERD Institute as a micro-chasm for practitioner training, there is evidence of the need to be intentional with teaching and practicing DEIB, as well as explicit continued development of educational opportunities. HERD offers strengths that can be directly applied in other learning environments. The findings echo the global conversation about quality education, prioritization of professional identity, and visceral need to understand intersectionality. As one participant shared: “we have to keep stretching, we have to keep exploring our own boundaries of things and exploring what’s happening in the spaces of the clients that we’re working with”.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Learn about the current empirical status of equine assisted services (equine assisted learning and psychotherapy) .

  • Learn about student/graduate experiences within the HERD Institute's as the education pertains to DEIB within equine assisted services (equine assisted learning and psychotherapy) .

  • Apply the findings to other AAI/AAS learning environments.

CE Policy
This course is fiscally sponsored by International Association of Veterinary Social Work . There may be potential biases or conflicts of interest inherent to this relationship, and it must be disclosed to participants. These conflicts of interest have no bearing on the course content and have been resolved.
Aviva Vincent
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