Equine Supported Wellness

“Horses lend us the wings we lack.” ~ Pam Brown
“Horses lend us the wings we lack.” ~ Pam Brown

What is ESW?
Offering an alternative approach to other traditional forms of talk therapy, Equine Supported Wellness (ESW) involves the use of horses in the therapeutic session.

What does Equine Supported Wellness mean?
At Clannad, we believe that our mental health intertwines with our overall health, well-being and emotional needs to include a broader exploration of our social connections, emotional wellness, experiences, and patterns that we all have.

Equine Supported Wellness (ESW) is an alternative way to offer learning and mental health support with the involvement of horses in the session.

ESW encourages our learning and understanding, helps us to recognize the patterns that exist in our relationships, and allows us to grow our emotional connectedness and relationships with each other.

ESW is offered through two different streams of programming:
1) A therapeutic stream where we incorporate ESW as a form of mental health treatment that takes a traditional in-offce talk therapy session and places it into a ring with horses.

2) An educational stream that focuses on supporting learning about horses, their behaviour and how they are in the world, and an opportunity to translate that into learning and reflection about ourselves and how we as humans exist and behave. By moving through a set of semi-structured exercises, participants will be a part of a journey of self-discovery and awareness, creating the opportunity for personal growth and healing ruptures in relationships.

What does an ESW session look like?

During an ESW session, you will meet a mental health provider and a horse handler who have both been trained in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. The horse handler is present to provide a safe environment for both humans and horses.

ESW sessions take place in an indoor arena at Rohan Wood Stables with a small herd of 3-4 horses who are free to explore the space with you. Participants are supported through a series of semi-structured exercises that involve interaction with the horses most commonly from the ground so there is no riding component. Each group exercise is designed to support our learning and self-reflection, focusing on emotional needs and topics that we discover.

After each group exercise we come together in the ring to debrief the experience and make meaning of what patterns might have played out. The horses are in the space and choose to offer us their unconditional presence and support regardless of what emotions we bring.
ESW offers the opportunity to take part in powerful emotional work, but does so in a supportive, confidential environment that can
feel less clinical.

Who Can Utilize ESW?

There is no prior horse experience required to participate in ESW, Rohan Wood Stables is completely accessible and the activities that individuals, groups and families participate in can be responsive to any physical exceptionalities required.

Some of the benefits
that we see with ESW are:

  • Improved communication between couples, groups and families
  • Feeling more connected with others
  • A greater understanding of the roles we play in teams/family units
  • Recognizing patterns in relationships that we can then choose to change
  • Research shows a decrease in symptoms associated with mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression – particularly when ESW is practiced within a couple or family unit.
The Horses
As natural herd animals, horses offer a sense of security for each other, help each other face challenges and provide comfort to one another leading to overall emotional well-being.

The semi-structured exercises used in ESW allow the participants to benefit from the natural instincts of horses.

The experience with the animals provides immediate feedback to participants, leading to deeper self-awareness, discovery of buried
emotions, and can enrich the therapeutic process.

As humans, we are social animals who need
others in order to feel whole-and even to survive.
It is through this connection in our relationships
that we develop, understand and heal.

How is this different from therapeutic riding?
Therapeutic riding programs focus on the development of social, educational, physical, and emotional learning in a safe and supportive environment. Participants are a part of a riding and horsemanship skills program and are supported by program facilitators and volunteers who walk beside and/or lead the horsewhile the rider is mounted. These volunteers are key in assist with this learning process as well.

The Free Spirit Therapeutic Riding Association (FSTRA) is a local program who operate out of Rohan Wood Stables and are the largest therapeutic riding school east of Montreal, Quebec.
FSTRA supports hundreds of riders and their families each year with various exceptionalities.

Clannad Equine Supported Wellness is Proudly Partnered with:

We are able to offer ESW with gratitude to our key partner Rohan Wood Stables (RWS) who also believe in removing barriers, providing healing through relationships and building community.

Current Opportunities to Experience ESW

ESW Educational Groups

ESW Therapeutic Groups


Phone: 1-902-365-3363
Fax: 1-902-365-2630
Email: info@clannad.ca
Monday – Friday: 8:30am – 4:30pm