Horses in Education and Therapy International Conference Highlights – Dublin 2018

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A highlight of my summer was presenting at The 16th International HETI Congress of Equine Facilitated Programs hosted by the Federation of Horses in Education and Therapy International’s (HETI) in Dublin, Ireland on June 26 – 29, 2018.

HETI is a global organization that forms worldwide links between countries, centres and individuals offering equine facilitated activities and assists in worldwide programs. Their international conference is hosted every three years in a different country (the next one HETI 2021 will be in Seoul, Korea).

Over 395 delegates gathered from around the world to recognize many ways horses support human health and wellness. Of the 47 countries represented, the top 10 included the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Greece, Norway, Czech Republic and Germany.

(l-r) Eliane Trempe, President, CanTRA (Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association) Sanna Mattila-Rautiainen, President, HETI Federation and Jennifer Garland, Owner, The Mane Intent Inc.

Over 223 abstracts were submitted with the bulk originating from Europe. Abstract themes included Autism, Mental Health, Social and Emotional Difficulties, Equine Welfare, Equine Education & Training, Physical Disability, and Social Inclusion.

One of the underlying principles that I’ve adopted since launching The Mane Intent is to be open to opportunity when it presents itself – even when unexpected. So when the call for conference abstracts was extended last year – we responded.

Our abstract was titled ‘Experiential Learning with Horses: An Innovative Approach to Fostering Resiliency-based Competencies in At-Risk Youth.’ We were thrilled to learn our abstract was one of 178 accepted for presentation and I was one of three presenters representing Canada at the podium. (There were 7 delegates from Canada representing Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec).

Our abstract recognized that strength-based skills such as personal resiliency and socio-emotional competencies play a protective role against the negative physical and mental health outcomes associated with exposure to traumatic experiences. Equine-assisted learning (EAL) is a promising innovative approach to foster these important strength-based skills, particularly in children and youth.

It was an opportunity to profile Building Internal Resilience Through Horses and the results that are emerging from our research project with Trent University and Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Our presention outlined our study to date, examining the effectiveness of a community-based group program consisting of 8 weeks of EAL sessions, counterbalanced with 4 weeks of supplemental expressive arts and psycho-educational workshops, for four groups of young women aged 13 – 18 who reported experiencing child maltreatment or exposure to intimate partner violence.

Results examine changes in self-reported socio-emotional competencies, sense of mastery and a sense of relatedness following the EAL programming, related to changes following the supplemental programming, as well as longitudinally at 1-month and 6-month follow-ups. Quantitative results are also supplemented with participant’s qualitative feedback. This research is important in informing current and future prevention and intervention efforts and advancing innovative trauma-informed practice.

I fell in love with Ireland and felt an immediate connection to its history and Celtic roots. I experienced so many highlights on this trip, perhaps even more special because I was able to share them with my sister Pat who travelled with me. These were just a few:

  • The conference was held at Royal Dublin Society – one of Ireland’s oldest societies. Founded in 1731 to promote and develop Agriculture, Arts, Industries and Science – it is home of the renowned International Dublin Horse Show. The historical significance and architectural detail of the building and its conference facilities made this conference extra special
  • The Opening Ceremonies of the conference featured local Celtic drummers and a parade of horses indigenous to Ireland. Sharing the anticipation and excitement of individuals from around the world who all work in partnership with horses for human wellness created a sense of belonging that I have yet to really feel since starting this journey with horses. I was amongst my tribe (which included therapists, coaches, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, educators and researchers).
  • An opportunity to see and hear Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal, Princess Anne, speak as Patron of HETI 2018. The Princess Royal has been President of the Riding for Disabled Association for many years. Her remarks recognized the exponential growth of Equine Assisted Learning and the power of connection and relationships created between horses and humans. She was encouraged by the range of research represented at the conference that she noted never would have existed in the past.
  • An opportunity to discover the beauty and culture of Ireland, including a visit to Newgrange, a 5,000 year old Irish passage tomb. This is a UNESCO world heritage site surrounded by 97 stones, the most impressive of which is the highly decorated Entrance Stone covered in concentric circles. The tomb was designed to have the mid-winter sun shine through its Roof Box into the chamber. As part of this experience – we stood in darkness and silence within the tomb together with others from around the world to take in the significance of this historical site. Clearly our ancestors understood our dependence on the sun (and nature) for survival (perhaps more so than we do in today’s modern world).

Not sure I will get another opportunity to visit Dublin in this lifetime. What I do know is that this was an unexpected, yet significant experience for me on so many levels that presented itself because of my connection to horses. For that – I am grateful.

 

About the Author: Jennifer Garland is the Owner/Program Director of The Mane Intent, offering Health and Wellness Workshops and Individual and Team Effectiveness Coaching. Jennifer’s intent is to bring horses and humans together to explore new possibilities, getting you out of your comfort zone and giving clarity of voice to your leader within. She has over 25 years of leadership experience in communications, cause-related marketing and change management. As a strategist, facilitator and effectiveness coach, Jennifer has provided counsel and support to senior leaders from all walks of life to build productive relationships, facilitate learning and to embrace change. She is a ‘socialpreneur’ who values the art of living life fully with intent.

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