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Lori Halliday - Equus Anam Cara / Working with Horses

Equus Anam Cara (EAC) addresses the critical need for effective intervention and alternative therapies for youth in transition.  Our program increases emotional wellness and teaches practical life and social skills through an active outdoor experience that is more interactive and compelling to youth, and therefore more effective than traditional talk therapy.
Most children acquire the emotional tools necessary for passage into adulthood from family, school and community.  But for foster youth, the lack of continuity in relationships around them creates a deficit in emotional security and social skills. The statistics show the typical consequences, as 40% do not complete high school, 51% are un-employed after emancipation and 10%-25% become homeless.

Unlike typical youth support programs based on conventional talk therapy in office or classroom settings, EAC provides "hands on" experiential learning. Getting troubled children and teens to “open up” or pay attention indoors in a classroom setting is hard. EAC's Experiential Learning Process is similar to the Rutgers/4-H process used nationally in the 4-H Youth Development Program to teach how to learn from--and apply learnings from--experiences. EAC experiences provide memorable behavioral models that are then applied by analogy and in practice to the child's emerging social and life skills. Coordinated programming combines traditional therapeutic interventions with our more innovative alternative using relationship activities with horses. 

Children begin emotional healing and learn valuable life-management lessons while working with a horse partner of their own choosing.  Many of the activities are done on the ground with no mounting or riding. A session may include an exercise that works on understanding boundaries: what they are, how to express them to others, and how to react to boundaries set by others. Learning to feel safe and develop trust in a social group is modeled on horse herd behaviors. Through the EAC program, youth develop their role in the “herd” social context. Outcomes include feelings of belonging, wellbeing, and accomplishment, improved emotional health, better empathy, self-awareness, self-control, and reduction in ineffective behaviors. A New Families Social Worker recently remarked, "We can tell who is in your program because they are the ones making progress."  

EAC’s program is part of a larger international network advancing Equine Growth and Learning methods.  Anwer Sher from Hoofbeatz, an equine-assisted learning facility in the UAE, explains the essential role of the horse: “We may teach life skills, confidence, leadership in the classroom, but in an interaction with a horse, feedback is given directly without any lies. If they are fearful, if they show a lack of leadership, the horse will reflect this back in the way that it behaves with the child, and it is a great opportunity for them in a supervised environment to build skills, to gain confidence in themselves and have lots of fun as well.” Sher summarizes,  “It will enable the student to exercise those competencies, skills and attitudes in everyday life.”
EAC strives to create emotionally healthy and socially competent youth who become well-adjusted, thriving members of community, and are prepared to make a positive contribution.

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