Document Type



Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Family studies

Publication Details

Successfully submitted to the Technological University Dublin in part fulfilment of the requirements for award of Masters (M.A.) in Child, Family and Community Studies, 2015.


Throughout Irish history, the horse has had many uses. In modern Ireland, some communities have harnessed the power of the horse to deliver a range of social interventions. However, at present, there is little published research about equine assisted programmes in Ireland. The main intention of this research project is to explore how 10-12 year old children, from a DEIS primary school in Limerick city, experience an Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) programme facilitated by the local Garda Youth Diversion Project (GYDP). The project aims to be child centred, emergent and participatory, in keeping with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), 1986. The research methods deemed most relevant for the participants were micro ethnographic observation and children‟s photography, followed by semi-structured interviews, where the children‟s photography was used as an elicitation technique. Although it is recognised that this study is on a small scale, and is not generalizable, the findings for this sample support EAL as a positive intervention which promotes learning, self-efficacy, relaxation, relationship-building, social support and self-awareness. In the same way, the programme offers children the opportunity to provide gender neutral care and develop empathy. Equally, EAL appears to give children a space to engage in culturally-significant activities in a safe environment. In sum, the findings suggest that EAL may be a successful programme for engaging young people with an interest, but not necessarily a background, in horses. These findings could be relevant to other DEIS schools and GYDP‟s in Ireland, especially in areas with strong ties to horses.