Equine Interactions Program
Since 2014, Alaqua’s Equine Interactions program has helped children and adults with special needs, development challenges and emotional traumas learn and develop social and life skills in a supportive setting. The program utilizes a hands-on educational approach which uses interaction and relationship building between horses and humans, to foster an environment which encourages learning, personal growth, and self-discovery.
Through a curriculum of activities designed to address individual goals and needs, each equine interaction is framed to help individuals learn and grow, meeting them where they are at on their own journey.
Additionally, the program provides a safe, peaceful, and comfortable environment for individuals, as the horse barn and its adjoining pastures lend themselves to serving as a unique multi-sensory classroom setting.
All of the below attributes make the equine a natural partner to teach us about ourselves and help us develop interactive skills for navigating life.
In equine assisted therapy, the horses also serve as metaphors for people, issues, and challenges in participants’ lives.
Equines are herd animals who naturally want to interact. They easily engage participants with their willingness to respond and cooperate.
Horses do not have ulterior motives when they interact. Their non-judgmental presence creates an emotionally safe learning environment.
Horses are prey animals whose very survival depends on the ability to be very sensitive to both non-verbal communication and another’s intent, even when it is subconscious! These unique qualities and sensitivities of the horses give them a special capacity to read and respond to non-verbal symbols and cues, which can lead to powerful emotional interactions, breakthroughs, and life-changing insights.
Horses can mirror humans and can act as therapists by being able to read a person’s body language. They can also hear a human heartbeat from up to four-feet away and sense emotions.
- Developing the skills to effectively communicate with a horse builds self-confidence, empathy, and trust. Visually horses are large animals and therefore can easily represent some of life’s bigger challenges and obstacles that each of us face in our personal life and social situations.
- Horses have survived for thousands of years because they create an effective social hierarchy with clear “rules” and responsibilities ensuring safety and harmony with-in the herd. Learning about herd dynamics and observing the horses as they interact is another metaphor for society, providing opportunities to explore social situations and how to successfully navigate them.
Focused interchanges with horses address trauma and other mental health needs, including substance abuse, depression, and family relationships.
For Children and Individuals with Special Needs
Equine Interactions enables special needs kids to develop positive social and life skills in a supportive environment, framed to help each individual learn and grow. The horse barn and its adjoining pastures lends itself as a unique multi-sensory classroom. Children develop needed life skills and attributes, such as self-confidence, problem-solving, responsibility, communication, creativity, impulse control, empathy, independence, and overcoming fear to name a few. Equine Interactions is experiencing tremendous growth and has expanded to serve international children with special needs, as well as foster children.
For our Veterans and Military Service Members
Using the power of horses, the Equine Interactions program effectively heals individuals battling with a variety of physical or emotional issues, including PTSD, which has been called ‘trauma to the soul.’ Suicide, unfortunately, is one of the worst outcomes of PTSD, and military suicides have increased by as much as 20% this year compared to the previous year—especially in the COVID era with national disasters, deployment, and civil unrest. However, through this program, veterans are able to find hope and healing they need to survive.
Equine assisted therapy has been proven to help military veterans and their families as they can quickly and deeply get to the root of issues and experience meaningful changes in the lives. After program completion, individuals better understand the dynamics of their own family, military unit and community to provide a positive model for fostering collaboration, support and trust.
A scholarship fund has been set up to help underwrite the costs for our military veterans to go through this 8-week program at Alaqua. You can support this impactful program by donating in honor of a veteran in your life or contribute to help one of the men or women in need of help. It is truly lifesaving. You may make a donation here: https://bit.ly/Equine-Military
Alaqua’s Equine Interactions program is certified by the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) and is also one of their EAGALA military services designated program. The treatment team consists of Alaqua Equine Specialist Bonnie Blackmon and The Hope Project Director David Trogdon, who is also a mental health professional.
TO APPLY: Contact David Trogdon with The HOPE Project by emailing [email protected] or calling (850) 896-4868. The program is 8-weeks long, with one-hour individual sessions per week. Groups of eight can also be accommodated.