In Sunday’s Frederick News Post, there was an article about the Frederick County 4-H Therapeutic Riding Program and their need for volunteers. For those of you unfamiliar with this worthwhile program, it provides disabled children and adults an hour a week on the farm and in the saddle, actually riding the horse. The program requires trained volunteers to be able to meet its needs. Currently, the program serves 77 disabled children and adults and has 40 more on the waiting list, hoping for a turn. They are holding a four hour training session on Saturday, April 5. If you feel that you could volunteer your time to help them out, please consider contacting them at 301-898-3587, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reading the article and reflecting on the wonderful work they do with their riding program, we thought of how different it is from the Equine Assisted Learning program that we offer here at ThorpeWood. People often get equine based programs confused, and think they all involve riding; however, that is simply not the case. In our EAL program, the participant never gets on the horse. The lessons learned come not from riding the horse, but rather by interacting with the horse, all on the ground.
Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) is an experiential learning approach that uses horses not as tools, but as active participants that help facilitate the learning experience for the human participants. By examining equine behavior, and how the horses may or may not react to us, we may better understand what it is that we ourselves are bringing into our relationship that is having a positive or negative effect on those human relationships. EAL combines human and equine training and relationship principles.
These sessions, participating in activities with the horses and then taking the time to reflect on those experiences, help participants to look more objectively at themselves. This process is often revealing and so very useful to considering new approaches to how we communicate.
To put it simply – horse has no buffer. Horse reacts to what shows up in its presence and if we are observant about the encounter, horse will broadcast to us what we bring to the experience with horse. If in the next experience with horse we bring a different self, horse will respond accordingly to what presents itself to him without being stuck in what happened previously. This is powerful far beyond what one may think possible. If we truly partner with horse, the experience can mirror how others see us and how our behaviors, tone of voice, and mannerisms might be perceived by others. Working with horse leads to better communications and interpersonal skills and, as an added bonus, it is a fun way to learn!
Horses can help our development in so many ways. If you would like to learn more about how our Equine Assisted Learning program could benefit your non-profit or organization, please contact us at 301-271-2823.