Our equine program is student centered. We don’t focus on problems, or symptoms, we look for a connection with the animal, watch for increased feel, timing, and overall enjoyment. Our schedule with the horse is based on the needs of each child, and the relationship the horse has with the child.
The rhythmic motion of riding a horse causes the children to focus on their movement – which is slow, deliberate, and relaxing. The child indirectly learns how to balance better, which is aided by the calming effect of riding. We look for qualitative results from our program, and while each child is unique, we tend to see increased communication during the ride, increased durations of focus, reductions of stims, and, best of all SMILES!
In addition to the movement experienced when riding the horse, the participants tactile senses are stimulated. The horse’s skin is fuzzy, the mane and tail are rough, and the nose is soft. Discovery of these sensations often helps draw a child to want to be more involved with these gentle giants. Motor skills are also developed as the child learns to ride, groom, feed, and saddle.
A child’s ability to interact socially is often improved as well. We encourage group sessions with other families to allow the child to work and play with other children, and also work on transition skills.
As with other types of animal assisted learning, the introduction of the animal seems to calm and soothe children. Often, children begin making eye contact with the animal first, then with other people. Soon after that, the child often becomes more open; again, with the animal first, then with people.