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Interest in the potential of equine-assisted therapy and learning, where horses are incorporated in therapeutic, rehabilitative and educational interventions to ameliorate emotional, behavioural and social issues, has increased in the past half century. More recently, equine-assisted therapy and learning has been utilised in social work and penal contexts, such as in the rehabilitation and support of at-risk youth and young prisoners. However, there is a dearth of empirical research and published evaluative studies examining the effectiveness of these emerging programmes. The purpose of this study is to explore the role that a Dublin-based equine-assisted learning programme plays in diverting young people from criminal pathways. The perceived impact and personal experiences of participants participating in the equine-assisted learning programme are explored using a qualitative research approach. The findings that emerged from the study indicate that the development of empathy, self-esteem, self-efficacy, feelings of hope and belonging, practical skills, and positive relationships with practitioners, were facilitated through this equine-assisted intervention. These, in turn, support the desistance process for the young people and assist them in the transition towards more positive life outcomes.
O'Kelly, F. (2015) An Exploratory Study of the Role an Equine-Assisted Learning Programme plays in Diverting Young People from Criminal Pathways. Masters Dissertation, Dublin Institute of Technology.