Whether used for training, learning or as a reward, time spent with the Glenholme horses has produced positive results for the students through the years.
Equine efforts are an integral part of the educational platform, which has shown that working with horses is not only a great motivation tool; it is also a valuable means of positively impacting social, emotional and behavioral development in student with learning differences.
Many riders experience a genuine connection to the horse that few sports, or relationships, can create. At Glenholme, the equestrian program is a comprehensive platform that incorporates riding, horsemanship, equine-assisted therapy, EAT, and equine-assisted learning, EAL, into a recreational and developmental experience for students of all ability levels.
According to Chelsea Bourn, Glenholme’s equine program director, “One of the nicest things about horses is they offer unbiased feedback to people.” She continued, “It is a really good learning opportunity for students – particularly for students at Glenholme who really struggle with that social piece.”
Chelsea also noted, “A horse is really good at feeling our energy and they can sense that a person’s behavior is in-congruent with their emotions and therefore, provide feedback based on the emotion and not necessarily on what is being said. In that way, the horse is able to react more appropriately than a person or maybe even a clinician would be able to do.”
There is an abundance of equestrian opportunities for students with varying equine interests at Glenholme and more than a third of the school population participates in some way. Riding is available during physical education and afterschool enrichment classes. Students who have academic flexibility opt to gain vocational experiences in the barn during a free period. Weekend horsemanship instruction and riding are also popular options. For equestrian-assisted learning (EAL) and equestrian-assisted therapy (EAT), students are selected on their suitability to the opportunity. While the EAL and EAT are relatively new, expansion is anticipated. Currently, 10 students per semester are participating and the program is quickly gaining popularity.
Chelsea affirmed, “The equestrian program is easily tailored around the needs of the student by tying in their individual clinical goals and their academic goals. This is really wonderful. The benefit to students is tremendous and impacts all areas of their life.”
Glenholme’s animal-assisted therapy is the ideal setting where our furry friends – equine and canine alike – help students engage in conversation and activities that is clinically designed to transfer social and emotional learning to human relationships. By understanding animal behavioral interactions, young people are able to learn the importance of empathy and emotional understand with family, friends and others. The emotional and physical bond is a powerful tool in improving social and cognitive abilities – particularly for students with special needs.