MTRA’s Equine Experience, conceived in January of 2017, offers Equine Facilitated Learning to children in Foster Care and children considered at-risk. In 2018, MTRA was able to expand the program and increase the number served to 25 children throughout Marion, Lake, Sumter and Alachua counties. In addition to the riding program, we were able to solicit and provide summer camp scholarships to children involved with the Equine Experience. We continued to increase the program, during our 2019 year, through our addition of the SOZO kids (“the children of the forest”), serving 35 of the SOZO children throughout our 2019 sessions—a total of 60 children served in 2019 under the Equine Experience program. MTRA’s summer camp was also offered to participants during the 2019 camp season.
The Equine Experience program focuses on the following skills:
- Self-reflection and Empathy
- Developing effective coping skills for internal stress and socialization with appropriate peer interaction through the association with horsemanship skills and riding
- Decision Making Skills – Slowing Down and Thinking before Doing
- Leadership & Development of Lifeskills for Educational, Professional, and Personal Goals
The horses utilized in our Equine Experience Program aid in participants learning the skills above as they do not judge. They simply respond to the rider’s energy and actions or lack thereof. Positive choices are directly reflected when there is a positive outcome. By nature, horses seek out confident and trustworthy leaders, relying less on words and more on how a person carries his or herself on and around them. It is necessary to develop a safe and trusting relationship to successfully develop horsemanship skills, and as the participants begin to experience the bond and successes, they become more socially intelligent and aware of the importance of communication (verbal and non-verbal), timing, and an ability to influence others by one’s own energy and actions. Partnership with a horse deepens self-awareness, and you learn how to shift away from ineffective behaviors. The Equine Experience links emotions and energy to purposeful actions – and fine tunes how to use them.