The pilot GaitWays equine-assisted learning (EAL) program offers experiential workshops for at-risk children in grades 5-8 at St. James School from the West Allegheny neighborhood of Philadelphia. GaitWays sessions consist of unmounted equine-assisted growth and learning activities that lead up to riding sessions. In each session, the experience of equine-human interaction is combined with counseling-based processing skills to increase students’ awareness and control of their emotions, cognitions, and behaviors.
Participants spent the first day choosing among three horses they worked with at liberty in the arena, then becoming acquainted with “their” horse and being led through some unmounted activities.
An EAL activity is a task for horse-student teams that may require persistence, creativity, cooperation, communication, and/or patience to complete. The activity may be a game-like challenge or it may take the form of a horse care task. The EAL leader encourages students to process reactions to what goes on during the activity. This can bring opportunities for further thought about what it means and what it takes to be persistent or to be creative, cooperative, communicative and/or patient.
Other sessions are divided between riding and new equine-assisted learning activities.
GaitWays for School Success is generously funded by donors.
Click here for a video about the St. James experience at Special Equestrians.