The Role of the Equine

Equines have their own perceptions and emotions, and can also attune themselves to the presence and feelings of others. Through their remarkable sensitivity, perceptiveness, and intuition equines are able to offer valuable feedback and information to clients. It is crucial that they are able to express themselves spontaneously and freely through their actions and reactions when working with clients.

Do you desire to belong to a community that values what equines have to teach us and treats them as equal partners?

The equine is a sentient being, partner and co-facilitator in the equine facilitated relationship and process. The term “equine” is meant to include horses, donkeys and mules, as all of these animals have gifts to offer in the field of equine facilitated wellness. Equines have their own perceptions and emotions, and can also attune themselves to the presence and feelings of others. Through their remarkable sensitivity, perceptiveness, and intuition equines are able to offer valuable feedback and information to clients. It is crucial that they are able to express themselves spontaneously and freely through their actions and reactions when working with clients.

In order to support their equine partners in this field, it is incumbent upon human facilitators to be aware of the impact that this work may have on equines, and safeguard their physical, mental and emotional well-being at all times. They must ensure that their equine partners are treated respectfully and ethically, both within and outside of client sessions. Human partners need to understand that their equine partners are completely dependent upon their stewardship, and do their utmost to meet their psychological and physical needs.

Through their remarkable sensitivity, perceptiveness, and intuition equines are able to offer valuable feedback and information to clients.

The Role of the Equine Facilitated Wellness Professional

In many situations it is desirable and even necessary for equine facilitated wellness practitioners to work together in a partnership. The role of the EFW team is to create a safe space in which clients are able to learn, experience, explore, and express themselves. In order for this to happen, it is important that the professionals complement one another’s knowledge, experience and skills, and that their relationship is based on mutual respect. It is also crucial that they have a shared understanding of equine facilitated wellness principles, ethics and values.

Working as a team allows practitioners greater freedom and flexibility in terms of the diversity of clients they may work with and the nature of services provided. For example, teams may be able to offer group sessions and workshops, as opposed to strictly working on a one-to-one basis with clients. The Scope of Practice statements and Levels of Expertise documents available on the website are useful documents to help the team determine the parameters of their combined services.

EFW-CAN Code of Ethics


1. Respect
1.1 Members are guided by consideration for the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health of all involved.
1.2 Members serve individuals regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, creed, gender, religion or sexual orientation.
1.3 Members ensure the respectful treatment of the equine as a sentient being, partner and co-facilitator. Members are aware of the impact of emotional work on equines and safeguard their physical, mental and emotional well-being.
1.4 Members obtain free, informed consent for all services provided, and, in the case of minors, obtain both the assent of the minors as well as the consent of their legal guardian(s).
1.5 Members respect participants’ right to privacy and disclose information only with valid written
consent from participants and/or their legal guardians, in accordance with legal obligations and
professional standards.

2. Professional Competence
2.1 Members adhere to the highest professional standards in all aspects of their work with both equine and human participants.
2.2 Members accurately represent their level of education, experience and professional practice. Members only offer services within the scope of their expertise and competence as outlined in the EFW-CAN Scope of Practice agreement.
2.3 Members accurately represent to human participants the possible benefits, risks and outcomes of activities. Members strive to maximize benefits and minimize potential harm to both hum an and equine participants at all times.
2.4 Members always engage in responsible caring for human participants. Members must remain cognizant of the fact that clients are often vulnerable physically, mentally and/or emotionally and it is the duty of practitioners to ensure their safety and well-being at all times.
2.5 Members always engage in responsible caring for equine participants. Members understand that their equine partners are completely dependent upon their stewardship, and do their utmost to meet their psychological and physical needs. This includes ensuring that equines have adequate time for play, socializing, turnout, and rest, and that they are allowed to retire from this work when needed regardless of age. Additionally, members must have an in depth understanding of each equine’s unique characteristics, as well as herd dynamics. Members engage with other professionals as needed to ensure equines are provided with appropriate day to day care, medical care, and any other care and support needed for their health and well-being.
2.6 Members use the highest degree of professional judgment to determine the appropriate level of contact between humans and equines, and seek to avoid physical or psychological harm to humans and equines in all cross-species interactions.
2.7 Members strive to stop or offset any harm to human or equine participants immediately upon becoming aware of its likelihood or actual occurrence. This is to be done by terminating the activity or taking other appropriate remedial action.
2.8 Members maintain professional competency through continued education, skill development, personal growth, peer consultation, and supervision. At a minimum, members meet EFW-CAN’s continuing education requirements.
2.9 Members maintain appropriate records of all equine facilitated wellness interactions and activities.
2.10 Members refer to other professionals when this is in the best interest of human or equine participants.

3. Integrity and Honesty
3.1 Members aspire to the highest degree of integrity in all professional relationships. They take responsibility for their actions and would never take advantage of or otherwise exploit others for personal benefit.
3.2 Members demonstrate openness to and respect for colleagues and other professionals.
3.3 Members honour all professional and volunteer commitments.
3.4 Members negotiates and clarifies the fee structure and payment policy prior to the initiation of service, and charges only for services rendered.
3.5 Members do not harass, intimidate, frighten, confuse, or otherwise act against the best interests of equine or human participants.
3.6 Members model fair and respectful interactions with all participants and are aware that both purposeful and incidental interactions communicate certain messages to human and equine participants.
3.7 Members avoid providing services to human participants with whom they have sexual
relationships, either past or present. They follow relevant professional standards with regard to
engaging in romantic relationships with former clients.
3.8 Members avoid dual relationships (familial, supervisory, financial, etc.) whether they are current or from the past, when these relationships may adversely affect the provision of professional services. Where a dual relationship exists, members take immediate steps to offset any harm that may occur.
3.9 Members agree to address any personal problems, substance use problems, mental health problems, psychological distress, or legal problems that may interfere with their judgment or performance. Members agree to immediately seek consultation and take appropriate remedial action should their judgment or performance become impaired.

4. Responsibility
4.1 Members commit to continuous professional development through ongoing education, consultation, and supervision.
4.2 Members agree to abide by this Code of Ethics for the protection of participants (human and equine), the public, and the profession.
4.3 Members agree to provide training to all personnel and volunteers with regard to the content and application of the Code of Ethics, and to address any related questions or concerns.
4.4 Members agree to keep their memberships with EFW-CAN and other relevant professional organizations up to date.
4.5 Members take steps to ensure the culture and environment at the barns in which their equine partners reside are congruent with The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines in Canada as developed by Equine Canada in 2014 and can be found at of practice/equine
4.6 Members abide by all federal, provincial and municipal laws.

This Code of Ethics is intended to be used as a guide by EFW-CAN members to assist them in providing equine facilitated wellness services that reflect the highest standards of ethical practice, professionalism and integrity. This Code is intended to be used in addition to other applicable professional codes (counselling, social work, nursing, etc.). The Code of Ethics is based on four principles that are fundamental to the practice of equine facilitated wellness.

EFW-CAN Principles

There are four main principles that are fundamental to EFW-CAN philosophy and approach to working with equines and humans in equine facilitated wellness (EFW) activities.

These principles emphasize the importance of treating human and equine participants with respect, dignity, honesty and integrity. They also underscore the need to ensure the safety and well-being of human and equine participants in all EFW activities.

These principles form the foundation of EFW-CAN Code of Ethics, and are explored in greater detail in our EFW-CAN PDF Information Package.

Principle 1:  Respect for the rights and dignity of all individuals - both human and equine - and the promotion of well-being for all participants

Principle 2:  Professional competence and sound judgment in the service of responsible caring for human and equine participants

Principle 3:  Integrity and honesty in relationships with human and equine participants

Principle 4:  Responsibility to society and the equine facilitated wellness profession

Whats a Scope of Practice?

A personal scope of practice defines the parameters and boundaries within which an individual can safely, ethically and competently practice in the field of equine facilitated wellness. It clearly indicates the level of EFW-CAN certification met or exceeded by the individual, as well as what that person is NOT qualified to do within the field of equine facilitated wellness. A broad range of human services professions (ex. social worker, teacher etc.), training and experience can be considered and included in determining an individual's personal scope of practice.                                
Each individual will need to consider and define his/her personal scope of practice in the following three key areas:

  • in working with people

  • in working with equines

  • in equine facilitated wellness.

All approved EFW-CAN Trainings will give you the confidence and ability you will need to practice Equine Facilitated Wellness within your own individual scope of practice and showcase to your clients and fellow practitioners the highest standard of code of ethics & principles in the Equine Facilitated Industry today!


This comprehensive new code was created over two years by the collaborative work from 18 horse industry representatives from across Canada.  EFW-Can supports the guidelines created and encourages all members to familiarize themselves with the material. The Equine Code will become a part of training beginning in 2014.

Having agreement between horse people of different disciples is not an easy task! It was accomplished in this group by returning to the commonly held love of the horse. All recommendations are backed up by good science and came from lengthy discussion and debate of all concerned. Including sections on facilities and housing, feed and water, health, training, husbandry, reproduction, feedlot management, transportation, change or end of career and euthanasia this document is now the legal standard for the care of equines in Canada.

Some interesting tidbits worthy of discussion that touch on issues we deal with across the country:

-        In muddy conditions horses must, at a minimum, have access to a mud-free, well-drained area in the pasture/yard on which to stand and lie down

-        For group housing, there must be sufficient space for subordinate horses to escape aggression

-        Given the scientific research on horses in general, snow alone will not meet their water requirements

-        The ‘thermoneutral zone’ for horses is between 5° and 20° C. In temperatures outside of this range, increased metabolic energy is required to maintain body temperature

-        Equines that are sick, injured or in pain must receive appropriate treatment without delay or be euthanized without delay

-        Horses must be handled in a manner that does not subject them to avoidable pain or avoidable injury

-        The welfare of the horse must be of paramount importance when making change or end of career decisions

This document is a guide for horse owners and for humane societies. It also creates an opening for difficult discussions. As an association that puts the horse first, this is an important document for all of us involved with EFW-CAN to understand and use as a guide.

Look for meetings in your area scheduled to discuss the code or go the website to download your own copy.

If you have a complaint about the association or an EFW-CAN Trainer, Mentor or Professional, please print off our PDF complaint form below, explain your concerns & mail or email it to EFW-Can Head Office.