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      Harnessing horses in social pedagogy: Equine-assisted social education in a school context

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          This article introduces a school-based social pedagogical programme using horses to support pupils’ educational development, social and emotional skills and self-esteem. These are essential for pupils’ well-being, to reduce the risk of developing emotional disorders in youth and later life. In terms of academic outcomes, these social-emotional skills, character strengths and health benefits are recognised in the Finnish educational agenda. Equine-assisted social education (EASE) differs from recreational riding programs by its frame of reference in social pedagogy and in the human–equine bond it features, positioning horses as co-educators to improve interaction and collaboration. This human–equine communication supports both human and equine welfare if applied with attention, respect and empathy. Furthermore, the stables environment provides a setting for enhancing the pedagogical relationship and trust between pupils and their teacher. This equine activity practice, like other educational interventions, has physical, behavioural, social and emotional intentions. In addition, as social pedagogy is a complex and innovative discipline, EASE represents a ground-breaking practice within this discipline. The purpose is to respond to individual and social difficulties with preventive and problem-solving practice. As Finnish social pedagogy emphasises educational dialogue and communication, EASE facilitates non-verbal communication and positive behaviour. Additionally, it consists of factors improving collaboration through experiences, activities and dialogue.

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          Most cited references 20

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          The Prosocial Classroom: Teacher Social and Emotional Competence in Relation to Student and Classroom Outcomes

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            A Comparative Study of the Efficacy of Group Equine Assisted Counseling With At-Risk Children and Adolescents

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              Equine-related treatments for mental disorders lack empirical support: a systematic review of empirical investigations.

              Equine-related treatments (ERT) for mental disorders are becoming increasingly popular for a variety of diagnoses; however, they have been subjected only to limited systematic investigation.

                Author and article information

                International Journal of Social Pedagogy
                Int. J. Soc. Pedagog.
                UCL Press
                16 July 2019
                : 8
                : 1
                Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 9, Siltavuorenpenger 5 A, 00014 Helsinki, Finland
                Author notes
                © 2019, Ritva Mickelsson.

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited • DOI:

                Page count
                Pages: 9
                Case Studies
                Custom metadata
                Mickelsson, R. (2019). Harnessing horses in social pedagogy: Equine-assisted social education in a school context. International Journal of Social Pedagogy, 8(1): 4. DOI:


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                International Journal of Social Pedagogy
                Volume 8, Issue 1

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