“It’s transformative,” is a frequent reaction at the end of a half day interactive program that involve non-riding, on-the-ground encounters with horses who are being horses. Since 2014, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) students at SON have been participating in a unique experiential learning program for health professionals. The sessions are facilitated by an equine specialist Mickey Purcell, and mental health professional and SON Associate Professor, Noreen Esposito EdD, PMHMP, both certified in the Eagala Model of equine assisted learning.

This model is used in over 40 countries around the world for personal and professional development and in mental health settings. Horses have unique characteristics such as their large size, desire to be part of a herd, and high sensitivity to the non-verbal communication of humans. The combination of these characteristics, as well as their quick reactivity to cues, make them very effective at teaching humans about themselves and others in this mind/body experiential learning.

Dr. Esposito is currently writing a book about the theoretical foundations of this work and plans to continue offering this unique experiential learning opportunity for UNC students.