Equine Therapy

Equine Therapy

Equine Therapy picture

Animals are proven to help students. Equine therapy is a form of therapy that helps students emotionally through the use of horses. Licensed therapists come on site to work with students as they engage with the horses. This is a unique opportunity offered here through the hard work of Nurse DePrima. Look for ways throughout the year to help support these efforts through fundraising. 

What is Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Personal Development (EAP)?
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Personal Development is an experiential learning model that has gained recognition in its unique approach and powerful outcomes. Compassionate Hearts practices the EAGALA (equine assisted growth and learning association, eagala.org) model of EAP which is solidly grounded in well-established and researched theories of psychotherapy including Gestalt, Cognitive-Behavior, Brief and Experiential Psychotherapy. The EAGALA model is a clinical advance on these established practices, where the incorporation of horses is deliberate, principled, thoughtful and professional catalyst to change. (EAGALA 2011) EAP activities are facilitated by certified professionals that are experts in their individual fields (mental health and equine specialist) which provides the highest level of safety, both physical and emotional.

Experiential learning offers a hands-on approach to learning more about self, unblocks barriers and promotes strengths. Learning is not just intellectual, but also emotional, providing participants an opportunity to “feel” the learning and development. Equine Assisted Personal Development activities adds horses into the experiential process increasing the likelihood of long term retention of new skills.

 EAP is NOT a riding program and ALL activities are accomplished on the ground. Horses are sensitive to non-verbal communication and respond to the messages participants give them in the moment. As a result their responses begin to feel familiar such as how they respond to peers, family members, fears, dreams. The horses then become very real symbols of these relationships and allow participants to explore and work through how to make effective changes in an experiential, in the moment, emotionally safe method.

Although the Mighty Mini’s program  is not psychotherapy or treatment guided, it is emotional and behavioral learning, and at times strong emotions come up for participants. The EAGALA model is structured in a manner to provide safeguards by utilizing a team of facilitators that include a mental health professional to continually assess these emotions and address as needed, as well as an Equine specialist who is keenly aware of the horse behavior and provides for physical safety as well as observations of horse behaviors to participants that generates personal exploration.

 Why Horses?

Those who are familiar with horses recognize and understand the power of horses to influence people in incredibly powerful ways. Horses are large and powerful, creating a natural opportunity for some participants to overcome fear and develop confidence. Horses are very much like humans in that they are social animals. Horses live in social herds, with similar constructs as humans. They have distinct personalities, attitudes, and moods, are at times agreeable, and others stubborn, they enjoy being with peers as well as being alone and they enjoy having fun! What works with one, may not work with another. In other words, they provide vast opportunities for metaphorical learning. The lesson often learned is that if participants change themselves, the horses respond differently, which transitions effectively into other areas of their lives. Horses are HONEST, which makes them especially powerful messengers. Horses require work. In an era when immediate gratification and “the easy way” are the norm, horses require participants to be engaged in physical and mental work to be successful, a valuable characteristic in all aspects of life. In EAP, horses become real symbols of participant’s relationships and allow them the opportunity to work through ways to change aspects of their lives in an experiential, in-the-moment, and emotionally safe method.

Benefits of EAP for young learners

  • Participant learning comes from the process; there is no set reaction expected.
  • Experiential learning is different for each participant, and each will take away learning that is appropriate to them.
  • EAP provides an avenue for participants to practice new behaviors and life skills in a safe, supportive environment.
  • As EAP is a new way of learning, participants may feel frustrated at times and facilitators will explore with them their process.
  • Participants will continue to learn from their experience often weeks and even months later.
  • Activities are designed that each participant has individual learning and achieves enhanced understanding of their emotions and actions.

    **Mighty Mini Program has been specifically designed for learners age 5-10 years old to address social-emotional skills and encourage positive interactions within the learning environment to easily transition into other life areas.**

    Program Goals:
  • provide youth an alternative outlet for emotional growth and learning that allows them to be both mentally and physically involved in their own process.
  • offer opportunities for youth to develop their own tools for effective communication, confidence and creative problem solving as they face life’s obstacles.
  • offers opportunity for teachers and caregivers to participate in (Equine Assisted Personal Development) EAP activities designed to strengthen families and improve positive social interactions.
  • build protective factors, including developing supportive relationships, opportunities for meaningful interactions and strengthening family systems.

Through specifically designed activities with the horses participants will explore and further develop:

  • Communication: an understanding of multiple means of communication
  • Creativity: learning problem-solving skills
  • Attitude: learning they have the power to choose happiness,
  • Anger management: explore ways to resolve anger without hitting or striking others
  • Motivation: accept personal responsibility for relationships and success
  • Observation: ability to put observations into words
  • Relationships: identify friendship behaviors that promote making and keeping of friends
  • Emotions: increase feelings vocabulary
  • Self-Confidence: opportunities to recognize internal strengths.
  • Family relationships: allow positive time for family interactions.

Sessions involve setting up ground activities designed to reflect real life situations allowing participants to experience and make connections and explore alternative solutions. Horses do not respond to “talk” and participants quickly realize they have to make authentic changes to effect a horse’s response. Equine Assisted Personal Growth experiences are structured to require participants to take initiative, make decisions and be accountable for results. Participants are engaged intellectually, emotionally, socially, soulfully and/or physically producing the perception that the learning goals are authentic. Equine Assisted Personal Development is ENGAGING, EFFECTIVE and FUN!!!

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