An equity loan is basically a loan which was obtained to help buy a home or was obtained to pay for home improvements or debt consolidation.
It s called an 'Equity' loan because it is secured against the remaining equity in the home after the first (primary) mortgage has been paid off. For this reason, an equity loan is considered the 'junior' mortgage.
The first loan being the 'senior' mortgage and this lender has 'first rights' to a home's value.
With the rapid decline of home values which started in 2008, most equity lenders were 'wiped out', including many regional banks, because there was no longer any security for their loans, many home-owners simply stop-paying and there was no equity to foreclose on.