Equine Youth Program
An opportunity for youth living with mental health struggles to heal through self exploration, awareness and growth supported by horses and trained human facilitators
The experiential nature of our program coupled with the mindful natural way of the horse provides a unique opportunity for healing for those who have not had success in traditional talk therapy or soft skill development programs. All activities are done on the ground. There is no riding.
Experienced co-facilitators, Angie and Amy create an engaging and comfortable space to explore and expand the boundaries of self-awareness and who one thinks they are. Amy brings her Master’s of Social Work education, her experience in the field of mental health and her “soft yet direct” approach, while Angie brings her training in Clinical Hypnosis, experience working as part of corporate teams for much of her career, her passion for relational horsemanship and her “straight from the heart” approach, in addition to both maintaining certification in the two-year Equine Gestalt Coaching Method®.
Our Hope for Participants
Youth will experience our program as a “clean slate” to explore who they are outside of how others have defined them. We hope they will walk away knowing they are enough, and gain a greater sense of self-compassion. We strive to help participants access a place of safety and peace within, and feel less of a need to be “perfect.”
There is just something about horses… They follow natural law and live in the present moment. Horses see truth. For some youth, the motivation to participate and engage simply increases when horses are involved. For others who struggle to find the words to talk about their internal experiences, horses seem to provide a sense of acceptance and sometimes what participants describe as understanding, without using words themselves.
Perhaps it’s the way that horses can encourage people to find their truth as often that is the moment when a horse more deeply engages with a client. Or maybe it’s just their benevolence in working with young people. Research is only beginning to scratch the surface on this question!
Understand and have tools to practice mindfulness
Improved confidence and healthy boundary setting
Build positive relationship with self and others
See the value in diversity and uniqueness
Better able to communicate and understand emotions
Gain insight into who is “in their corner”
The outcomes are weaved throughout the weekly experiences through specific exercises and discussion.
The program was initially developed in consultation with Authentically You Catalyst™ and continues to grow and evolve to meet the needs of young people living with mental health struggles. Although there is a structured curriculum based on a 6 week program, the primary focus is the needs of the participants in
the moment which sometimes means adjusting the plan during the session.
This overall delivery of the program can be shifted based on individual program needs (for example if a school is able to bring youth out for two half days or one full day, the model can be modified to include numerous experiences within one day) or adjusted for young people to work through individually. In addition to altering the format, the curriculum may be altered as determined by the facilitators during group based on the group presentation and needs.
Sample 6-Week Program Outline
Skills Practiced: critical thinking, individual gifts & identity, honesty &
Dealing with distractions
Check in circle
Mood check in
Review of safety information
Development of group agreements
Discussion about safety – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually
Equine experience and mood check in with horses
All weeks maintain a consistent format with “skills practiced” and “equine experience” changing. Additional skills practiced include collaboration, safety, leadership, emotional awareness, community impact,trust, personal responsibility, boundaries, cooperation, conflict resolution, innovation, communication, self-compassion and celebration of success with a graduation ceremony at the final meeting.
Indigenous cultural practices are integrated and elders are consulted as appropriate for spiritual guidance.
With the support of our horses and our staff, we hold a vision of empowered, confident and compassionate individuals who stand
strong in who they are.
Youth will walk away from this program with a greater sense of self-worth and a greater capacity for self-reliance while developing the skills necessary to identify and connect with
a safe network of support.
WHAT PARTICIPANTS ARE SAYING:
"I learned a lot about myself in these six weeks. I found a new person inside of me. Someone I didn't know existed before."
I loved working wit the horses and learning more about myself as a person."
"The horses teach me how to be more confident within myself. They teach me that it is ok to say no, or to feel the way you feel."
"Really powerful. It was my safe place and it honestly got me through some really hard times that I don't think I would have been able to get through otherwise."
WHAT PARENTS ARE SAYING:
“It was wonderful to see her with so much
“She improved her ability to communicate
with us about her feelings and events
taking place in her life.”
“I have noticed increased communication,
and the acknowledgement of gratitude.”