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Equine-Assisted Social Work

A Social Work Practice Model


New Podcast

What is EASW?

  • Equine-Assisted Social Work (EASW) combines horses with traditional social work practices.

  • Horses play a crucial role in promoting balance, connection, and non-verbal communication.

  • Participants must use their body language and energy to interact with the horse.

  • The experience is challenging yet rewarding.

  • EASW has been shown to be an effective complement to traditional social work practices.

  • EASW provides additional benefits for those participating.

"Authentic connections occur when a horse is added into the treatment session"
(Carlsson et al., 2014)
Catharina Carlsson, PhD
(Coined EASW)
Our students need experiential field placements.
When a student must manage their self before a client and a horse, the core competencies of service, social justice and  more come to life"
MaryBeth Ali, MSW 
(Professor, Social Work Field Education)
“Clients get 100% of me as a social worker when a horse in nature is added, rather than the 60% or 70% of me in a traditional office setting"
S6-Respondent to Qualitative Research Study-IRB # Pro2021002055

 EASW as a Complement or Alternative to Traditional Social Work Practice

Practical - Ethical - Instinctive - Inclusive - Authentic - Fun
Experiential - Hopeful - Novel - Alternative

Interaction between client, SW and horse
  •  Incorporating horses into therapy sessions creates an authentic and dynamic experience that enhances the therapeutic relationship between the client and therapist.

  • Horses offer a non-judgmental presence and do not discriminate based on factors such as age, gender, race, country of origin, language, religion, politics, or socio-economic status, allowing for a deeper level of trust to form between the client and therapist.

  •  Horses are highly attuned to the energy in their environment, and their responses to perceived safety or danger can help clients become more aware of their own emotions and behavior, leading to increased self-awareness and personal growth.

  • When faced with risk or pressure, horses will yield or move away, which can serve as a powerful metaphor for clients as they learn to recognize and respond to difficult situations in their own lives.

  • By adding horses to the social work arena, the power dynamic is shifted, and the traditional power differential between social worker and client is diffused, allowing for a more collaborative and empowering therapeutic relationship.

  • Incorporating horses into therapy elevates the client's power and agency, putting them on equal footing with the social worker and fostering a sense of empowerment and self-determination.


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Learn More:
Online learning series

  • A published qualitative Research Study was designed and executed in 2022.

  • 12 social workers with minimum master's level graduate degrees and certification from an accredited Equine Assisted Services Organization participated in the study.

  • The study aimed to learn about the experiences in the field of Equine-Assisted Services.

  • The implications from the study indicated a need to create a practice model and build a community around the ethical practice of equine-assisted services performed by a social worker.

  • Equine-Assisted Social Work (EASW) is one such model.

  • The online learning series will establish the foundations of Equine-Assisted Social Work (EASW).

EASW logo
Young person kissing a horse Image by Jusdevoyage
 Person's hand on a horse's neck Image by Rex Pickar
Two horses with one person Image by dylan nolte
Equine Assisted Social Work .org logo
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