For over a year, Muirfield Riding Therapy (MRT) has supported two of its volunteers Occupational Therapist, Morven McLelland, and Physiotherapist Ishbel Benzie, to undertake a post graduate course of study in Equine Facilitated Therapy (EFT) through Ulster University. We are delighted to formally announce that both Morven and Ishbel have passed and are now Equine Facilitated Therapists. Their qualifications allow us to continue offering a high-quality service to the children and adults who apply to MRT and develop innovative ways of including people with various and complex mental and physical disabilities.

The course in EFT is the first of its kind in the UK, for allied healthcare professionals in the fields of Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy and Speech and Language Therapy. Both Morven and Ishbel are already experienced in their own professions as well as being horse riders in their free time, and this course of study allowed them both to expand and develop their professional knowledge alongside equine facilitated learning.

(Ishbel on the left and Morven on the right)

Morven said,

“In April 2022 I started a journey of Masters Level learning to become qualified in Equine Facilitated Therapy…that journey has come to realisation, and I now hold a Post Grad Certificate in Advancing Practice in Equine Facilitated Therapy. I am so, so delighted, my love of horses and my love of occupational therapy can actually sit under one umbrella! Whoever would have thought it! Thanks Heather Falconer [our lead Physiotherapist, currently on secondment in Ecuador] for being the one introducing this to me all those years ago. I’m very grateful to MRT for the funding towards this qualification as without it I would have been unable to achieve this.”


The Royal College of Occupational Therapists explains the role as, ‘An Occupational Therapist helps people of all ages overcome challenges completing everyday tasks or activities – what we call ‘occupations’. They look at relationships between the activities you do every day – your occupations – alongside the challenges you face and your environment. Then, they create a plan of goals and adjustments targeted at achieving a specific set of activities. The plan is practical, realistic, and personal to you as an individual, to help you achieve the breakthroughs you need to elevate your everyday life.’


As part of the EFT course, Morven worked with Bear (not her real name), a lady who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis age 21, and therapy pony Charity. Read Morven’s case study poster to find out more,Equine Facilitated Occupational Therapy using the domain of Groundwork An integrative approach to enhancing mental health and physical functioning in Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

(Morven’s case study participant holding therapy pony Charity’s lead rope)


Physiotherapist Ishbel is equally delighted to have qualified,

“Completing the EFT course has been a dream since I qualified as a physiotherapist 16 years ago.  To see it in action and the benefits to the participants, is incredible and like no other therapy I have done before.  I’m so excited to expand this and see where it can go at MRT.  Huge thanks to MRT for their sponsorship to do the course and the support and sharing of knowledge of all the wonderful volunteers, many who are now friends, throughout this process and of course the wonderful ponies.”

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy defines the role of Physiotherapists as helping people affected by injury, illness or disability through movement and exercise, manual therapy, education and advice.

Ishbel’s EFT case study participant also worked with therapy pony Charity. Ishbel was hoping to see an improvement in her participant’s balance and walking, with his personal goal to improve his golf swing. As a physiotherapist, Ishbel’s focus was on hippotherapy, a specialist form of physiotherapy on horseback. Read Ishbel’s case study poster to discover how they approached therapy together, Does hippotherapy improve balance and gait speed in a person with Multiple Sclerosis?

(Ishbel’s case study participant with therapy pony Charity)


We are so proud of both Morven and Ishbel. MRT Chair, Michelle Sutton said,

“Working with qualified therapists who are trained in the best ways to support and enable our participants is key to our success as a Centre.  We are delighted that Ishbel and Morven have completed their Equine Facilitated Therapy training and are now able to help our participants to gain the most from working with our wonderful ponies. It’s been a lot of hard work and learning over the last 12 months and we congratulate them both in achieving their qualifications.”