What is Equine Assisted Learning? (EAL)
This approach to learning promotes development of life skills as well as educational, professional and personal goals through equine assisted activities.
This learning approach integrates human interaction with horses which is guided by planned learning experiences to meet identified goal or desirers of the participant.
These experiences promote opportunities to learn critical life skills such as trust, respect, honesty, self-control and communication.
How Your Autistic Child Can Benefit From Equine Assisted Learning
For thousands of years the bond between man and horse has proven to be effective in creating an emotional, healing bond. Horses are used by physical, speech, and occupational therapists to reach their patients on a personal level through what is referred to as “hippotherapy”. Children with autism also benefit from Equine Assisted Learning due to the motor, emotional, and sensory sensations that come with riding a horse.
Creating the Emotional Bond
Autistic children have difficulty bonding emotionally to others. As the parent of an autistic child, you know that it is hard for your child to make eye contact, communicate what he is feeling, and expressing himself to those he cares about.
Rather than verbal communication, autistic children experience physical communication with the horses. They brush them, hug them and pat on them. By learning to care for the horse, they associate the care they provide with feelings and an emotional bridge is constructed. This bond can lead to social and communications skill productions with other people in his life as well.
Cognitive and Language Skills Development
Autistic children often have difficulty comprehending normal directions. By engaging in equine assisted learning, your child follows directions through a fun activity that makes taking directions easier to grasp and remember. He will also give the horse direction, which provides him with more opportunities to communicate. Your child is naturally motivated to move; thus, he is excited and motivated to communicate. During his sessions his cognitive concepts will naturally improve. For example, during our lessons we have children throw colored balls into buckets while riding, touch their eyes, mouth, and ears, identify obstacles as well as many other exercises tailored to your child’s needs – all incorporated during riding.
Balance and spatial orientation are experienced through the vestibular sense organs. These are located inside the inner ear and are stimulated through direction change, incline, and speed. Riding a horse helps liven these sensory preceptors, which help make riding exciting and motivates your child to continue to be engaged.
At Risk or Troubled Youth
Equine Assisted Learning is a great tool to assist At Risk or Troubled youth in coping with many of the common social and behavioral issues which are too commonly seen.
Troubled teens are typically in a state of aggression, defiance, or anger. Using Equine Assisted Learning to build a relationship between the teen and a horse provides an opportunity to understand how emotions affect others as well as themselves. This experience also provides youth with the opportunity to learn how to control and work with animals.
Teens will learn how to properly groom, lead, exercise and ride a horse while asking the horse to perform a task… not demanding it be done.
Through learning how to get along and work with horses, they can better understand their own emotions and body language, which will assist in their day to day lives interacting with other people, as well as enhance their self-esteem and confidence.
Teens who may struggle in school, have alcohol or substance abuse problems, or have social or mental disorders can greatly benefit from Equine Assisted Learning.