Why EFL For Brain Injury

Over the years working in the field of traumatic brain injury we have been able to recognize some of the major areas affected. The spectrum of dysfunction can vary largely from one person to the next but the most common symptoms experienced include noise and light sensitivity, difficulty with executive functioning such as decision making and problem solving, limited cognitive tolerance to tasks resulting in headaches and fatigue, and difficulty with memory related activities.


The benefits of EFL (equine facilitated learning) skill development programs have been researched for decades now and proven to be incredibly successful across a wide range of situations. Listed below are a few of the benefits specifically related to brain injury. 

Light Sensitivity 

For clients suffering from light sensitivity, it can be overwhelming to the neurological system to be contained in an environment with artificial light. There have been many studies published on the effectiveness of UV light therapy and the benefits of natural light for the healing process. All equine facilitated sessions predominantly take place outside with natural light as the major source of light.

Noise Sensitivity

All equine facilitated learning sessions are held at a private and very tranquil farm in Langley. The remote location and barriers to city noise provides a calm and quiet setting to work with clients. Since horses are non-verbal, most of the activities are done in silence with minimal verbal input/output needed from the client to achieve success with a given activity. As the client progresses and improvements in tolerance are seen sessions are modified to include controlled exposure to noise related skills.

Improved Executive Functioning 

Session are designed to include specific tasks around decision making, logic, reasoning, and planning. By partnering with the horse to facilitate these activities the client is able to complete the tasks without the stress of focusing on their own limitations, but rather seek solutions to a specific activity engineered by the facilitator. This allows the client to think and act in a low stress situation while accessing their cognitive abilities and building tolerance.

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Improved Cognitive Tolerance

Session are no more than 60min in length as many TBI clients may have a very low tolerance to focused work in the beginning. Keeping sessions at 60min allows for quality rehabilitation in short bursts until the client has built tolerance. As the client progresses, the difficulty of tasks may be modified to ensure they are consistently being challenged within their own capabilities.

Improved Memory Short-Long Term

Some of the most effective activities used in equine facilitated learning are those designed to improve memory. Using the horse allows the client to work on simple memory and ordering of tasks by merely having to learn the order in which effective horsemanship and handling is carried out. The checklist of horsemanship tasks can range from five to twenty plus items. Examples of horsemanship include catching, haltering, grooming, picking feet, leading, and pressure-release are taught from the very beginning and continue from ones session to the next building upon each skill. This theme progresses until the client is able to carry out all tasks with minimal input from the facilitator. 

Improved Social Interaction and Relationship Building 

For clients that struggle with social interactions, working with a horse allows for them to practice communication skills in a low stress situation. When done correctly, it can be easier to create a healthy, successful working relationship with a horse than with another person. Building these successful relationships with the horse can improve the client’s sense of responsibility, self-confidence, and self respect. People often find it much easier to work on interaction and relationship development with horses because there is absolutely no judgment or bias present. Horses accept each person as they are in that moment, which relieves much of the anxiety that can come from social interaction.


All of the skill clients are able to hone through working with the horses may be effectively translated to their own personal relationships. Learning to trust and work as a team with others, as well as building up self-esteem, confidence, and communication skills results in much healthier and more successful interpersonal relationships.

Stress Reduction

We all know that spending time in nature is great for reducing stress, and it’s well known that spending time with animals is similarly good for reducing stress and increasing levels of happiness. It should come as no surprise then that spending time outdoors working with horses is great for reducing stress levels and increasing happiness! Getting lost in the joy of spending time with horses is also great for clients that may need to release repressed emotions and rediscover the joy in everyday life. 

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