Research Report

Equine Assisted Learning for Primary School Children: Experiences of Teachers and Trainers



Donaldson J & Stoppard L (2020) Equine Assisted Learning for Primary School Children: Experiences of Teachers and Trainers. Equitots Lanarkshire Community Interest Company. Stirling: University of Stirling.

Equine-Assisted Learning Programme (EALP) was delivered by Equitots Lanarkshire Community Interest Company to promote the development of life skills using an experiential learning approach. The EALP focussed on activities that would improve confidence, communication, resilience, achievement, teamwork and relationships. The project aimed to evaluate the experiences of teachers and programme trainers of an EALP delivered by Equitots Lanarkshire. The research questions were: RQ1: What aspects of the programme work (or not)? RQ2: What changes in cognitive, psychomotor or social skills were witnessed during and/or after the EALP in the children or young persons? RQ3: What experiences do teachers and programme trainers report about the EALP? The intervention involved 25 sessions with 5 schools, with 4 children per school attending 5 sessions each. Primary schools were from two local authority areas in Scotland, UK. The intervention involved a variety of activities designed with and without the pony for primary school children (aged between 8-11). Ethical approval was gained through University of Stirling General University Ethics Panel GUEP509, and management approval was granted via the Head of Education in both Local Authorities. Sample: Seven teachers from 5 schools and one programme trainer volunteered to take part in the study. Participants were informed that they could withdraw at any time and refuse to answer any questions. Audio-recorded face-to-face or telephone interviews using a semi-structured set of questions, approximately 60-90 minutes in length, were used to collect data from participants. Data were held securely using General data Protection Regulation guidelines. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. The main findings of the research are described within each research question: RQ1: Travelling to the facility, working directly with the pony (such as riding, grooming, and understanding equine behaviour), as well as craft activities (such as making a coat of arms) were cited as being active ingredients of the intervention that teachers felt worked really well for children within the EALP. There were no negative aspects of the programme identified, apart from the further availability of such a programme to children within each council area. RQ2: There were examples of immediate impact for the children, and this was often carried on for months after the intervention. Positive changes in social skills such as those associated with positive behaviour (e.g. building relationships with the teacher and other children), as well as improvement in the children’s confidence and communication skills, were provided as examples throughout every interview. Cognitive skills, such as maths, were improved by carrying out applied work during the sessions. RQ3: Interview data revealed that teachers’ experiences of EALP was viewed as an excellent means of engaging children in learning. It was generally more difficult to engage children within the classroom than within the outdoor environment with ponies. Teachers noted areas where they were proud of their children’s achievements both at EALP, and also in the months after the intervention. In conclusion, this qualitative exploration of the impact of the EALP intervention found that it was positive in terms of the positive influence it appears to have on the cognitive, psychomotor, and social improvement seen in children both during and after the intervention. More evaluative research is needed before the impact is fully understood. Early evidence would suggest that it may have the potential to have a significant impact on the way the child learn, as well as having longer-term benefits.

equine; learning; children;

FundersEquitots Lanarkshire Community Interest Group
Place of publicationStirling

People (2)


Professor Jayne Donaldson

Professor Jayne Donaldson

Dean of Faculty Health Sciences & Sport, FHSS Management and Support

Mrs Lorna Stoppard

Mrs Lorna Stoppard

Lecturer, Health Sciences Stirling

Research themes