Our Youth Connections program is run in collaboration with local shools and residential homes such as Lakeside School, Christ's Home for Childrean, and Vision Quest. Riders come in groups of 4-8 once a week over 8-10 weeks, for 3-4 day workshops, and for occasional one-day outings.
The goals of Youth Connections are to learn riding skills and horse care through activities that also offer opportunities for
Therapeutic Riding operates like other well-regarded means of physical activity-based youth programming—martial arts programs, boot camp experiences, marathon training programs, and rope courses. Youth who would not be open to individual counseling or group discussion might be more likely to participate fully and genuinely in therapeutic riding sessions.
Horseback riding builds new body-mind connections. The three-dimensional movement of the horse replicates human movement and the riding experience also brings with it a calming rhythm and shared body warmth. Body energy is mobilized in new ways and the youth has the experience of building new physical competency. This in turn brings a sense that his/her body is right with the world.
The horse-rider connection, as it builds over the weeks, ideally becomes respectful, warm, responsive and empathic. Importantly, this very strong and fulfilling relationship is within reach of youth who have great difficulty establishing positive relationships with peers and adults.
Unmounted time spent with horses, in Special Equestrians’ distinctive environment, brings its own opportunities for building interpersonal skills and expanding rigid and negative self concepts. When grooming, leading horses, helping with barn care, and doing groundwork exercises, students are challenged to find new resources within themselves as they encounter resistance from the horse—whose size might provoke fear or whose willful nature might make them impatient. This is an opportunity to reach for new competencies outside a system based on standardized assessments and evaluations of achievement. Youth struggling with authority issues stand to make especially important gains
When appropriate, instructors give students opportunities to act as side-walkers or leaders for other students during the time period when they themselves are not riding. Frequently, we see these student lesson aides offering encouragement to the rider they are assigned to. When this happens, both rider and aide benefit: the rider is affirmed and supported; the aide experiences him or herself as having competence and being a leader.
As part of our unmounted sesssions, our Youth Connections riders work with the our Thoroughbred rescue horses El Frio and Gigi from A Step Along the Way, offering a great example of horses helping people and people healing horses.
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