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Introduction to Equine Assisted Therapy using Polyvagal Principles

Course Status:


Introduction to Equine Assisted Therapy using Polyvagal Principles




Cost: $


CE's Available:


Rebecca Bailey, PhD

Jaycee Dugard

Margie McDonald

By the end of this course, you will take away a new understanding of your own autonomic nervous system and will be able to see the subtle and not-so-subtle impact of one nervous system on another.

Course Overview

This self-paced course is enhanced by occasional optional live discussions with the instructors.

This first of its kind course gives you the fundamentals of understanding Polyvagal Theory through an equine-facilitated lens.

This 5-hour course is intended to support all Polyvagal-informed practitioners in their personal and professional development. These sessions are not just for horse professionals or those with horses.

The Polyvagal Equine Institute is dedicated to supporting and furthering Polyvagal principles of safety and connection through interacting and learning from horse/human nervous systems. Horse-human interactions provide a unique opportunity for cross-species connection. In this five-hour course, you will see with fun and interactive videos how horses rely on their nervous systems to make sense of the world around them. When learning about these interactions participants learn about their own nervous systems and can see the impact of two nervous systems connecting. Horses are the perfect teachers of neuroception at work. By the end of this course, you will take away a new understanding of your own autonomic nervous system and will be able to see the subtle and not-so-subtle impact of one nervous system on another.

Learning Objectives:

1. Learn what is happening in our body and why through Polyvagal Theory.

2. Learn how horses and other animals can enhance your professional presence.

3. Identify skills for fostering safe connections with each other through the teachings of Polyvagal equine interventions.

4. Identify the various populations that Polyvagal equine interventions can apply.

5. Listen to accounts of how horses can engage clients to internalize Polyvagal principles better.

6. Start to recognize and identify horse signals and body language.

7. Learn how horses live and breathe Polyvagal principles.

8. Understand the nuanced nonverbal communication of horses helps us understand ourselves and promotes flexibility in our thinking.

9. Recognize the dos and don’ts of equine-facilitated interventions.

10. Learn what horses teach us about trauma survivors and why horses are the best teachers for embodied learning.

11. Identify challenges that can occur in Polyvagal equine interventions.

3 month payment plan is available on the registration page.

Students will have access to the course for 180 days from the date of purchase.


Join Dr. Rebecca Bailey, Jaycee Dugard, and Margie McDonald (equine specialist) as they guide you through: • Unit 1 - Introduction to Equine-Assisted Interventions Using Polyvagal Principles (self-paced) In the first session, you will meet Dr. Bailey who will tell you about her experience with what she calls her first co-regulator, her horse Locket. Lockett reminds the listener of the profound impact of animals on children's lives and how the little horse led her to her work as a psychologist. During this segment, you will also be introduced to the adaptation of Polyvagal principles to Equine assisted interventions for complex trauma designed to enhance your clinical presence and expertise. • Unit 2 - Introduction to Applications of Equine Polyvagal Principles to Various Populations (self-paced) In session two, we take a dive into how Polyvagal equine intervention can benefit multiple populations and how clinicians can apply these principles to help clients from a unique perspective. Included are stories from trauma survivors recalling how horses and equine psychotherapy helped them in their journey. • Unit 3 - Introduction to Horse Behaviors and Their Meanings (self-paced) In session three, you see horses' behaviors through a Polyvagal lens. Dr. Bailey, Margie, and Jaycee take you through multiple horse and human behaviors and how noticing the subtle cues given by horses can enhance your own communication skills. • Unit 4 - Introduction to Beyond the Couch: How Horses Help Humans through Trauma and Treatment (self-paced) In the fourth session, we offer a bird's eye view of what a session utilizing Polyvagal equine interventions looks like as we present a group of volunteers immersed in an equine-supported Polyvagal Equine session. • Unit 5 - Meet and Greet with Creators of Polyvagal Equine Institute - Rebecca, Margie and Jaycee (live). Meet the creators of this innovative series. Ask any burning questions you have about the series, and get to know the Polyvagal Equine Institute team.



Recommended Audience

Therapists, life coaches, horse professionals, and those curious about applying Polyvagal Theory to other mammals.

CE's and/or Certificate of Completion Available

Certificate of Completion upon course completion. No CEs at this time.
  • What is the attendance policy for a course?
    Live/Hybrid courses: While specific course policies may vary, we typically allow one absence for a live or hybrid course and require watching the recording and sometimes submitting a reflection for the missed session. If a participant is absent for more than the permissible number of live sessions, they may not be eligible for a certificate. Self-paced courses: In short, not applicable. Attendance does not apply to self-paced as they are designed to be consumed when the student is willing and able to take the course. All material is pre-recorded content, reading, or individual assignments.
  • How are live sessions held?
    Live sessions are held via Zoom. Zoom links are available inside the course content and in email reminders sent to enrollees.
  • What if I am unable to attend a live session?
    We upload recordings of our live sessions within 72 hours. (Please see the attendance policy above.)
  • How can I tell what time the live session will be in my local time zone?
    We typically provide live session start times in the four time zones of the continental United States. To convert live session times to your local timezone, please visit
  • Where can I find the course material?
    Thinkific is our learning management system. Upon enrolling in a course, you will receive an invite email to the course in Thinkific, where you can find all of the course materials and links.
  • Is this course accredited?
    The course page will list any continuing education credits (CEs) or other professional benefits that might be available for the course (and any applicable restrictions). If none are listed, then none are available.
  • How do I reset my password to Thinkific?
    You can reset your password by going to and clicking “Forgot Password?” link below the password field. You will then enter the email address you used when creating your account to receive a one-time password reset link. Use the instructions in that email to complete your password reset. If you have any other technical questions, feel free to reach out to us at
  • Is there closed captioning?
    Yes. Most pre-recorded content is hosted in Vimeo, which has closed captioning. If you come across a video that does not have closed captioning, please send us a message at
  • In which currency are your prices listed in?
    Our prices are listed in USD (United States Dollars). Your credit card or bank statement will likely reflect the price in your local currency.
  • Will I be charged sales tax?
    If you are located in the US or Canada, you will be charged sales tax on the cost of your course.
  • Are there scholarships available?
    Yes, PVI offers scholarships for all of our courses on a rolling basis. You can apply for a scholarship at
  • Are there group discounts?
    Yes. For groups of five or more participants, a 15% discount is available for each participant.
  • What is your refund policy?
    30 day money back guarantee for all of our courses (from date of purchase for self-paced courses and from date of first live session for live courses). Please reach out to us at if you'd like to inquire about a refund.
  • Can I purchase a gift certificate for PVI courses?
    Give the gift of learning! Yes, Polyvagal Institute offers digital gift certificates that arrive by email, and can be used towards any of our courses. Gift certificates are a simple way to share polyvagal insight and knowledge that stems from a better understanding of the human experience. Purchase a gift certificate now!


Rebecca Bailey, PhD

Rebecca Bailey, Ph.D. is a leading family psychologist and equestrian who has become a world-renowned professional educator, speaker, author, and entrepreneur. She is a author of Safe Kids, Smart Parents (Simon and Schuster) and has co-authored several publications in academic journals. Recently she co-founded The Polyvagal Equine Institute with Jaycee and long-term friend and colleague Margie McDonald. Dr. Bailey is also the founder of Transitioning Families, a group of independently licensed mental health practitioners dedicated to Bailey's innovative ideas for helping families through crisis and difficult change. She is best known for her work with survivors of non-familial abduction and is on the advisory board for The JAYC Foundation, the Elizabeth Smart Foundation and the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children. Together with Jaycee Dugard, Dr. Bailey has created an innovative model utilizing horses and other animals to help teach and educate judges, police officers, therapists, and other professionals about compassion, kindness, and connection. She is also the co-author along with Jaycee Dugard, on a curriculum designed to promote and support empathy and compassion in children. The two joined together with Ruthless Kindness Foundation to bring the program to the children served by the Family Justice Center.

Rebecca Bailey, PhD

Jaycee Dugard

Jaycee Dugard

Jaycee Dugard is a survivor of extreme trauma. She feels strongly that without animals in her world, she would not be the person she has become. Thankfully, her recovery included a team of four horses who remain in her life to this day. She has made it her life’s work to support the equine-human connection in tribute to her four teachers. She is the author of two books: A Stolen Life (New York Best Seller List) and Freedom: My Book of Firsts. She has presented with Dr. Bailey at several venues, reinforcing her work and supporting victims’ innate resiliency, and recently co-authored a publication on “Appeasement: Replacing Stockholm Syndrome as a Definition of a Survival Strategy (2023) with fellow authors, Dr. Porges, Dr. Bailey and Dr. Smith.

Margie McDonald

Margie McDonald is a lifelong accomplished equestrian and horse trainer. She is trained in classical dressage and has applied the teachings to an approach that embodies compassion and connection. Her work has included promoting self-awareness and kindness between horses and humans. Her approach has always embodied awareness of heart-to-head connection. She is the author of Notes from the Barn: My Life with Horses and has raised the conscious compassion of numerous equine enthusiasts.

Margie McDonald


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