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Equine Therapy: Healing Though Horses

At Alexander Youth Network, one of the special features of our treatment programs are the therapeutic interventions that we offer to promote a child’s development and skill building activities. These structured activities can be prescribed as part of a child’s treatment plan and are used to promote healing and to build positive relationships. 

Our Pet Therapy Program is part of our comprehensive therapeutic interventions that include a variety of animal-assisted therapy services, including Equine Therapy. Equine Therapy involves working with horses to promote healing and personal growth for children with mental health challenges. This program is particularly effective for children who struggle with traditional forms of therapy or have difficulty expressing themselves verbally. The horses provide a non-judgmental presence and offer a sense of comfort and connection that can be difficult to achieve in a traditional therapy setting. 

“The children always respond well to Equine Therapy and love the program,” said Madison Powell, Alexander’s Assistant Director of Day Treatment. “It teaches them trust, gentleness, kindness, listening skills, safety, life skills, and how to care for animals.” 

Through activities such as grooming, feeding, and leading horses, children learn to communicate effectively, build trust, and develop confidence. They also develop important life skills such as responsibility, empathy, and self-awareness.

“It’s a unique therapeutic program because it’s one that’s beneficial to both the children and the horses. The horses are learning from the children and have an instinct with them; it’s like they know it’s a child they are working with,” Powell said. 

Alexander’s North Shelby PASS Day Treatment Program located at North Shelby School is grateful to partner with Hearts N Hooves for Equine Therapy. Hearts N Hooves has offered therapeutic riding at North Shelby School since 2002. In 2002, it was held at the old campus of North Shelby, then moved with the school in 2018 to its new location where the school built an arena for the program to be included in their curriculum.  

Like most extracurricular activities, the pandemic presented many challenges for the Equine Therapy program. Our partners couldn’t participate as often and had to learn new ways to properly sanitize the animals and their equipment. As the pandemic slowed down, they were able to transition towards having the program back in full capacity. 

“We are excited to have the program back at full capacity because everyone enjoys the program. The teachers enjoy the breaks, the children enjoy learning about and interacting with the horses, and the horses love being with the children,” Powell stated. “It’s a win-win for everyone involved!” 

Written By Kevin Whitlock

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