HEAL Facilitator Training Program for Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy & Learning (EFPL)

“State of the Art” EFPL: the HEAL Facilitator Training

Human Equine Alliances for Learning provides post-graduate level training for Professional Counselors, therapists and educators seeking to incorporate Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy & Learning (EFPL) into their practice or program.* This 5-month course prepares participants to facilitate horse activities for experiential psychotherapy or learning, helping clients increase relational ability, emotional well-being, self-awareness and empowerment. The teaching faculty includes Leigh Shambo, MSW, LPCC, founder of HEAL; with HEAL graduates Kristin Fernald, MA, LMHC, psychotherapist; assisted by Sandy Matts, MA, TRI, founder of Raven Rock Ranch in Redmond, WA, USA.

HEAL-FTP Philosophy and Vision

The HEAL Model for EFPL is a powerful and safe method for employing EFPL with a variety of age groups, client/practice types, and formats (such as individual/ group, short-/ long-term). The HEAL Model™ offers practitioners a scientifically grounded, ‘research-ready’ approach using HEAL’s “6 Keys to Relationship”. The focus of HEAL-EFPL is on the limbic/emotional communications between horse and human, which reveal the activation of primary social-emotional-behavioral circuits in the mammalian brain. Targeted exercises help the client experience and practice new pathways to healthier relationships. The HEAL model is trauma-sensitive, respectful and safe for client and horse, and provides a high level of social partnership experiences which translate reliably to the client’s human world. The HEAL Model works as effectively in both non-riding or riding therapy and learning programs.

Saying “YES!

Saying “YES!” to the HEAL Facilitator Training Program was the most gratifying decision I’ve ever made. The program affirmed my passion for learning, sustained my dedication to bringing healing to others, and deepened my trust in horses as wise teachers.

Ruthi Davenport, PhD, LaGrande, OR, USA

Program Time Frame

The HEAL-FTP is a 5-month program. It begins with one full week (April or May) of on-site instruction at a HEAL approved equestrian site. After this, students spend 10-12 hours per week in distance learning from home, including EFPL practice sessions, reading assignments and peer conferences. The final week is again at the approved HEAL site (September or October), when students complete supervised sessions with HEAL clients. HEAL supports graduates with continuing education, mentorship and supervision.

2017 Location

Lundehagen Farm, Moelv, Norway

2018 Location

Raven Rock Ranch, Redmond WA

Benefits of HEAL Facilitator Training

Upon fulfillment of graduation requirements, graduates receive an individual, strength-based evaluation and a certificate of HEAL graduation. Graduates are listed on the HEAL website. HEAL-FTP meets Certification Board for Equine Interaction Professionals (CBEIP) documentation requirements for education/training in the field of equine facilitated mental health or education.

Raven Rock Ranch

New and rich ways to help others heal

My training at HEAL has allowed me to integrate over 20 years of clinical work as a psychologist with this powerful ability horses have, discovering new and rich ways to help others heal emotional and developmental injuries.

Eric Mueller, PhD, Portland, OR, USA


Leigh Shambo

HEAL Program Director Leigh Shambo, MSW, LPCC, CEIP-MH is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor specializing in EFPL with adults and youth, in therapy groups and personal growth workshops. Founder of Human-Equine Alliances for Learning (HEAL), Leigh is the author of published research on the efficacy of EFP for survivors of complex trauma. Her book The Listening Heart: Limbic Path Beyond Office Therapy was published in 2013. Leigh has presented the HEAL Model across the US and abroad.



Kristin Fernald

Kristin Fernald is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the San Juan Islands in Washington State. She has a private practice serving individuals and couples and leads retreats and group workshops, with a specialty in Energy Psychology. She offers EFPL services with her herd of 3 horses as an adjunct to her psychotherapy practice and teaches EFL workshops nationwide.


Sandy Matts

Assisting Instructor Sandy Matts has taught riding to hundreds of kids and adults, and also holds a Masters degree in counseling psychology. While volunteering at Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center, Sandy became a NARHA-certified Instructor. As lead therapist and Executive Director of Raven Rock Ranch she combines all of her passions and talents in one role. Raven Rock Ranch rescues horses and pairs them with at-risk children.


Wondering if HEAL offers the right EFPL Certification for you?

Wondering if HEAL offers the right EFPL Certification for you? Call or email me for a free, confidential consultation. I’m happy to answer questions, discuss application criteria at HEAL or your pathway in EFPL. I hope you enjoyed reading about our program!

Leigh Shambo, HEAL founder, Director of HEAL FTP

2017 Program Dates

April 2nd.

Registration can be done here.

Raven Rock Ranch

What are the Application Criteria?

Applicants should have Master’s level or equivalent education in clinical Counseling, or related field such as psychology or psychotherapy, social work, teaching or coaching; and 2 years experience in their field of human services. In addition, a minimum of 3 years recent and regular horse experience is highly recommended; candidates should feel confident in basic horse handling with a relational focus to create a “willing and safe partnership”. In HEAL FTP, students learn to understand horses as sophisticated emotional and relational beings; this may be very different from more traditional approaches to recreational, sport, or competitive riding. Prepare to be amazed when horses are allowed to freely demonstrate their “emotional genius”!

Some HEAL FTP applicants may use, or plan to use, a team approach to EFPL practice – i.e. the clinician or educator supported by a horse specialist as their practice partner. Practice partners are encouraged to attend HEAL FTP together when possible, which amplifies the learning and effectiveness for the team. Accepted teams are eligible for a 5% registration discount for each team member.

Prerequisite: Attendance in a HEAL Keys to Connection workshop or 8-hour private intensive with a HEAL Trainer, and a completed program application.

HEAL-FTP will accept up to 12 qualified applicants, filling on a first-come basis.

Call HEAL for more information (760) 873-8980 or email info@humanequinealliance.org

Extremely grateful to have found the HEAL method

I am extremely grateful to have found the HEAL method. I appreciate the clinically sound aspects of this model but even more, I appreciate the integrity with which it is written, taught and implemented. It embodies the very principles of healing through connection and what I’ve always felt was the horse’s message to me. The entire experience was such a blessing as is the realization that I am a part of the wonderful HEAL network of practice.

Cathy Christensen-Curry, LCSW. Helena. MT

HEAL FTP Learning Objectives

Human Development

Graduates will be able to understand and address the following components of human emotional functioning as they unfold in Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy and Learning (EFPL), and be prepared to manage these dynamics in practice.

  • Facilitating a client through experiential exercises and maintaining a safe container.
  • Be able to teach and practice the basic HEAL Model™ as it applies to people and horses.
  • Learn how to differentiate the applications and styles which will best apply to each unique circumstance.
  • Understand the concepts of boundaries, projection and transference and their role in the EFPL experience.
  • Understand your personal history, experiences, body cues and thought patterns and be able to deal effectively with your counter-transference issues.
  • Learn to use your own body as a “sensing device”, determining your physiological, emotional, and mental state prior to any engagement with the horses or a client.
  • Teach the client how to determine their physiological state in the present moment and help them to clarify emotions and make healthy choices using emotions as information.
  • Assist clients in identifying their own “coping strategies” and behavioral patterns which have helped them to survive. Help develop new behaviors and thoughts which help clients to thrive and not just survive.
  • Learn to personally identify the subtle energetic clues from the horse, and assist clients in identifying their own subtle messages, thought patterns, and the effect these have on interactions with people and horses.
  • Be able to clearly and quickly identify when a client needs immediate assistance and intervention, psychological or equine support, and know and accept your personal limitations.
  • Utilize and incorporate the HEAL Relationship Keys™ in all interactions with humans and equines.

Equine Skills

Participants should enter the program with working knowledge of standard equestrian safety practices with horses in a teaching atmosphere where beginners will be present.

  • Identify guidelines for physical and emotional safety for horses and clients, and understand how to structure and present equestrian safety to best serve different types of clients.
  • Practice and understand the underlying principles that guide the horse-human relationships toward positive and co-creative outcomes.
  • Translate and generalize horsemanship principles to human relationships and emotional states.
  • Recognize a variety of emotional and energetic states that impact horse-human communication; and support, facilitate, or assist the client to manage such states during horse activities.
  • Develop targeted EFL approaches/activities to serve the developmental and emotional needs of specific clients or groups.
  • Understand the demands and impact of EFL for the horses you have, develop your herd for your unique practice, and care for your herd’s emotional well-being.
  • Balance and integrate instructional, guided, and facilitative approaches in horse work with specific techniques that serve immediate and long-term client needs.
  • Facilitate a variety of activities on the ground, on lead, at liberty, or under saddle in ways that strengthen and develop positive emotional functioning.
  • Read and interpret the horse’s subtle communication and work effectively with the client’s interpretations and attributions.

One of the most transformative, profound, and enjoyable experiences

Participating in the HEAL Facilitator Training Program has been one of the most transformative, profound, and enjoyable experiences of my life so far… As a result of the training I am able to offer EFL courses to some of the largest youth agencies on the Island.’