Our teen programs facilitate self discovery utilizing an experiential, animal-based modality. We offer individual and family sessions, a weekly group program for teens ages 13-17, customized programs for local youth groups and single day clinics.
Through these programs teens learn about themselves and others by participating in structured activities with the horses, then processing and reflecting on behaviors, and patterns. This approach essentially reveals insights through analogy and metaphor. By relating their experiences with the horses to other people and issues in their lives, teens can begin to examine their own behaviors.
Photo Below is an example of horse mirroringhuman non-verbal behavior.
Notice that both of their heads are cocked and slightly turned away from each other and notice their legs. This horse reflected this person's behavior when meeting someone new. As this person walked around the horse "sizing him up", the horse continued to face the person turning its body in time with the human, completely mirroring both the curiousity and apprehension being non verbally expressed by the person.
How does it work? Teens are assigned a task to accomplish individually or with a group of teens and horses. They are given a couple of rules but for the most part they are fully empowered and responsible for deciding how to complete the task. Often during our sessions, teens do not yet realize that profound change is actually occurring. The activities are fun, they challenge teens to problem solve and empower them to explore a variety of approaches which often force them out of their comfort zone.
At the conclusion of the activity we discuss their experience and they often have AH-HA moments when they describe the horses behavior/response and relate the same feelings or experience to their own behaviors in another area of their life. This form of self discovery is particularly powerful for teens because no one told them how to accomplish the task, so all of the decisions about how to approach the challenge and their behaviors during the activity were not guided by outside influence, but rather by themselves.
So we remove the concept that they had no choice based on the direction provided, and by having them partner with a horse instead of a human we remove the possibility that their partner (the horse) has some hidden agenda or motive. Removing some of these typical patterns of blame leads teens to more readily recognize and take ownership of their behaviors. Teens are then free to either feel more confident about their positive influence on others and look at what they may want to change about behaviors that negatively influence others.
There is no horse experience necessary as this program is not about horsemanship. We offer a unique, challenging, and often fun form of experiential learning and self discovery.
- Breaks down defense barriers
- Excelerated learning
- Develops self confidence
- Challenges students in a non-threatening manner
- The horse is a non-judgmental, honest friend
- Promotes a motivating learning environment
- Improves relationships
- Enhances problem-solving skills
- Provides immediate cause-and-effect situations
- Creates feelings of hope
- Stimulates creativity
- Encourages responsibility
- Captivates and holds attention
- Helps develop empathy
- Empowers and gives a sense of control over self
- Develops social skills
- Teaches better communication skills
- Promotes both teamwork and individual leadership
Why a horse?
Plenty of reasons. Horses first and foremost are large animals. Learning to safely and effectively work around a creature weighing in at 1000 pounds or more, requires patience, trust, compassion, awareness, and self-confidence. Gaining or enhancing these traits alone can be quite an accomplishment.
Horses have the added benefit of being very social creatures, with a strict hierarchy and societal rules that are very similar to human communities. Horses also have very clear-cut personalities. An interesting factor of working with horses is that most students tend to choose to work with an animal that is almost exactly like them in personality characteristics. This can be an effective tool for understanding one's self and how others relate them.
A horse's inability to lie can be invaluable in seeing what a student may be attempting to hide or manipulate. Horses' body language, by which they communicate 99% of their feelings and actions, can reveal a student's real self and begin to break down barriers and communication blocks. Also, 85% of human communication is non-verbal.