Nature & Equine Assisted Therapies

Nature & Equine Assisted Therapies

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. 
- Albert Einstein

Transforming life's challenges into confidence, courage, and resilience


Nature and equine assisted therapies integrate natural environments, natural materials and equines into the therapeutic process. This emerging field of practice broadly referred to as 'ecotherapy'  draws upon the positive health benefits of connecting to nature, wildlife, and animals in order to  improve health and wellbeing. 

Nature's Health Benefits

Recent studies have shown that there are many benefits to spending time outside for people of all ages, but for children and youth exposure to nature can have long lasting positive impacts on their health and quality of life.  Children who spend time in nature gain multiple health benefits including raising vitamin D levels, protecting their bone health, and reducing their risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.  Exposure to nature has also been shown to act as a buffer against childhood stress, improve communication skills, motor coordination, and cognitive functioning including increased concentration, greater attention capacities, and higher academic performance.  

Nature as Therapy

Nature inspires contemplation, introspection and imagination.  When nature is integrated with therapy it allows for a relaxed and playful approach to therapy that engages the mind and body in ways not easily experienced in closed, indoor spaces. 

Equine Assisted Therapy

Equine Assisted Therapy is a professional, innovative and experiential approach to therapy that incorporates horses into the therapeutic process. This approach may be combined with physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy or mental health including psychology, social work, counselling and psychotherapy.   As such it is offered by registered therapists and mental health practitioners with specialized training ( i.e. psychotherapists, social workers, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech and language pathologists). Equine related activities in therapy may be on the ground 

or horseback, depending on the goal.




Why Horses?


Horses live in the present moment in awareness and direct contact with the world around them. As such, they are highly perceptive to subtle changes in their environments and within their herd, and respond immediately through their body language, energy and behaviour.  These resiliency traits have served them well and ensured their survival over millions of years.  


When it comes to relationships with humans, a horse will respond to each person uniquely, just as it does with members of its herd, providing immediate feedback and often mirroring the persons emotions and energy through their own behaviour.  This provides a rich opportunity for learning and growth, leading to greater self- awareness, body awareness,  emotional regulation and capacity to communicate effectively. 


Further to this, horses offer a natural wisdom and sense of unconditional acceptance, teaching and enabling a person- young or old- to simply be present in life and be who they are,  trusting in themselves and their inner resilience  in response to life stressors

and challenges.  

Connect by Nature Therapy Services

At Connect by Nature we offer both nature and equine assisted psychotherapy and occupational therapy to help children and youth develop skills for life by transforming mental and emotional challenges or learning difficulties into greater confidence and resilience. Our horses are important partners in the therapeutic process and through guided interactions and activities with horses and nature we help children and youth express themselves, develop positive relationships, and reach their goals. 


Similar to treatment offered in clinics, our therapy services are provided by a licensed therapist and may be covered by most private health insurance plans (therapy is not covered by OHIP). 

Please note, although some therapeutic activities may be mounted (on horseback)

we are not a therapeutic riding facility and do not offer horseback riding lessons as a part of therapy.

Connect by Nature -Psychotherapy 

Psychotherapy focuses on the difficulties a child or youth may be having with their emotions or behaviour. Through psychotherapy they receive emotional support, learn to self- regulate, resolve conflicts with people, better understand feelings and problems, and try out new solutions. Goals for therapy may be specific such as a change in behavior, improved relationships with friends or family, or more general  such as less anxiety and improved self-esteem.


 Connect By Nature- Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy for children focuses on exercises and activities to help children develop specific skills and overcome barriers related to everyday activities at school, at home or at play. Goals for therapy may be specific to addressing sensory processing issues, improving motor skills or executive functioning ( including emotional regulation and impulse control, planning and problem solving).


At Connect by Nature we integrate natural environments, natural materials and horses  into learning and skill building activities with an emphasis on social-emotional skills building.

Our Process

Following an initial consultation and assessment with an Occupational Therapist/ Psychotherapist  an intervention plan is developed in collaboration with the child/youth, parent/guardian, (if the child is under 18 yrs.) and a learning consultant, as appropriate. The therapist monitors progress, makes changes to the plan collaboratively and completes an evaluation at the end of the intervention to determine if goals have been met. 

Therapy sessions are one hour in length and take place outdoors, all seasons. Therapy involving horses with children under the age of 18 years requires two adults to be present.  At Connect by Nature this includes the registered therapist and a Learning Consultant/ Forest and Nature Practitioner.  This serves to enhance safety and optimize the therapeutic/ learning environment.




Galloping shiny black Andalusian stallio
Three Horses
Painted Leaves 2
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Working in the Garden

Contact us for more information!

Phone: 905-630-1909

Location:  1010 Effingham St. Fenwick, ON.

Nancy Rushford 

PhD, MSc.OT, Reg. (Ont.), M.A

Registered Occupational Therapist/


Tara Darling

M Ed. B Ed.

Learning Consultant/

Certified Forest & Nature Practitioner


Copyright March 2021 By Nancy Rushford Connect By Nature Health & Learning Services