While we at Ranch Ehrlo have long known of the benefits of Equine Assisted Learning (EAL), we don’t often get the chance to share that knowledge outside of our own clientele. A unique program based out of Prince Albert has recently given others the chance to learn firsthand what benefits can be gleaned from some one-on-one time with horses.
The Homeward Bound program focuses on moving people who are chronically and episodically homeless as rapidly as possible from the street or emergency shelters into permanent housing with supports that vary according to participant needs. The program also helps participants access community health services for acute and chronic health issues.
Organizers were interested in EAL and contacted Ranch Ehrlo’s equine program leader Amanda Snell to see if a partnership could be arranged. The first group of participants arrived at Buckland campus for their lesson last May.
“Everyone was quiet, and initially a little nervous to be around the horses,” said Amanda, who designed an EAL exercise called “starting the journey” for the group.
“First, we talked about horses and what they bring to the experience – horses never lie, and they work best with a trusting and respectful relationship,” she continued.
Participants had the opportunity to discuss what their personal experiences with trust and respect and how they affect day-to-day living before moving out into the arena to work with the horses.
“Once out in the arena, everyone was talking and laughing with one another and picking favourite horses,” Amanda described. “The staff member in attendance pulled me aside toward the end of the session and expressed her astonishment at the way the participants opened up so quickly, discussing how they felt and how the horses made them feel.”
Ultimately, each participant had a different experience: some wanted to race around with the horses from one obstacle to the next, and some were content to groom and care for their horse in a quiet area away from the exercise.
Another group had the opportunity to physically ride the horses, which is a much more challenging task for individuals who haven’t been around horses very often in their lives.
“It was so uplifting to see these participants, who have had some difficult experiences in their lives, smile and enjoy their experience out on our trails,” she added.
The Homeward Bound program is not the only group to benefit from the Equine Assisted Learning program this year. Ranch Ehrlo recently formed a partnership with the Carlton Alternate Education program, as well! Look for a future blog with all the details on that initiative.