Young woman reaching out to gently touch a horse in a field

Building Internal Resilience Through Horses Manual

Building Internal Resilience Through Horses Program Delivery Manual is available for therapists, social workers, and equine program facilitators offering skill-based equine-assisted learning. This manual represents the culmination of a four-year research project led by Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre with The Mane Intent Inc. and Trent University as program partners and with funding provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada. 

Building Internal Resilience Through Horses is developed with an explicit focus on building resilience following trauma. This innovative trauma and violence-informed community-based program has been offered to young women (aged 13 to 18 years) living with interpersonal trauma – e.g., who have experienced or witnessed domestic violence, or may be experiencing intimate partner violence, or have experienced child maltreatment. The program is delivered in a small-group format and includes eight weekly equine-assisted learning (EAL) sessions supplemented with five trauma psychoeducation and expressive arts workshops. 

This initiative is founded on the expectation that the hands-on EAL experience, combined with expressive arts and trauma-informed psychoeducation, helps young women reduce post-traumatic symptoms, improve mental health, enhance personal coping skills and resiliency resources while reducing their risk of harm in the future.

The manual is a comprehensive overview of the program and intervention research, including program approaches, modalities and principles; detailed session designs for the core program curriculum; program delivery practical considerations, participant screening and recruitment recommendations; and supporting resource material.  

The core program curriculum consists of ten weekly 2-hour sessions, including eight equine-assisted learning (EAL) sessions that are book-ended by two expressive arts sessions. This manual also describes three follow-up booster sessions, which were delivered as wellness check-ins at different periods following the completion of the core curriculum (e.g., 1-month, 6-month, 12-month). Each weekly 2-hour session includes 5-8 participants as the ideal group size, with no previous horse experience required.

During the 8-week EAL module, participants engage in a variety of facilitator-guided groundwork exercises in partnership with the horse(s) designed to help them increase awareness of, and develop new interpersonal and communication behaviours. The ways in which the horses react to communication, behaviour, and body language provide an opportunity for self-reflection, self-discovery, and shared discussions to identify opportunities for leadership and personal development. All participants are provided with a journal for reflection and personal learning and have the option to share their insights as part of each session.

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Cover of Building Internal Resilience Through Horses Manual with young woman gently touching the face of a horse.

The Building Internal Resilience Through Horses manual is available for free download in English and French.

To cite this manual, please use:

Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre, The Mane Intent, & Trent Emotion and Health Research Laboratory. (2020). Building Internal Resilience Through Horses program manual. Peterborough, ON: Authors. Retrieved from