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Inspired by Lewis explores the benefits of animals for socially challenged children.

Animals have always had the potential to warm our hearts, whether it be our lovable furry pets or the adorable animals in their natural habitat.

Studies have suggested that pets and animals can serve to be therapeutic. The development of the human–animal bond can have a profound effect on an individual and an evolving body of evidence suggests this bond can have therapeutic effects (DeCourcey, Russell, & Keister, 2010). Pets and animals provide opportunities for motivational, educational and recreational benefits to enhance quality of life.

Equestrian therapy is a form of therapy that uses horses to promote emotional growth particularly to patients with ADD, anxiety, autism, dementia, delay in mental development, down syndrome and other genetic syndromes, depression, trauma and brain injuries, behavior and abuse issues and other mental health issues. Equestrian or equine therapy is also an effective technique for many therapists to teach troubled youth on how they learn, react and follow instructions. In the therapy program are lessons on horse care, horse grooming, saddling and basic equestrian.

During our summer camp, Inspired by Lewis chose to explore the power of this form of therapy by taking our group of kids to The Jennifer L. Buck Stables in Marietta. Here the children were taught not only how to ride the horses but how to groom, prepare and lead them. Everyone listened and followed directions as they learned a new skill while making a new four-legged friend at the same time.

Day 1 of horse therapy

Commencing with introductions, everyone stayed focused as they eagerly awaited their opportunity to ride the horses. The horse trainers reviewed the necessary horse safety, as well as the rules and regulations that needed to be followed. Upon completion of the introductory lesson, the students were asked to sign an agreement that they would follow the listed rules.

Now with all of the paperwork out of the way, it was time to meet our new friends! First we allowed both the horse and child to become familiar with each other by teaching the kids how to groom the horses. It was important to be gentle and follow directions.

The next step was to get the horses out of the stable and learn how to lead them. With patience and leadership skills everyone successfully learned how to lead their horse!

Now it was time for the moment we have all been waiting for! The kids could finally learn how to mount the horses. Carefully and confidently each child climbed up to prepare for the ride.

These brave kids were now prepared to guide their horses. Everyone patiently awaited their turn to ride a horse around the round pen.

After everyone had a turn, it was time to bring the horses back into the stables to clean them and finish off our visit. Everyone remembered the skills initially taught to them and executed the task of cleaning up their horse.

Now it was time to cool off, work on some arts & crafts (decorating horse shoes) and have a group discussion. As predicted everyone had a great time and had no idea that throughout the entire experience not only were they learning how to ride a horse, but they were also practicing how to be patient, follow directions, communicate, lead and work together.

In the process, equestrian or equine therapy aims for its students to:

  • Build sense of self-worth, self-concept

  • Improve communication

  • Build trust and self-efficiency

  • Develop socialization skills and decrease isolation

  • Learn impulse control and emotional management

  • Set perspective

  • Learn their limits or boundaries.

We also learned that even though horses are bigger than our pets at home, they are still soft, lovable animals that we must treat with care and kindness.

Needless to say, the Inspired by Lewis summer camp crew most certainty enjoyed this experience!

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