Thursday, June 16, 2011

Horse Sense

Horse sense is another term for common sense, but we all know that common sense ... well, it just isn't that common.

For the past twelve weeks Dude has participated in an Equine Assisted Learning program. He was signed up through school and it is really the best program he has ever participated in. Over the course of three months we have seen Dude's self confidence, independence and self governing of his emotions sky rocket. He has become more sure of himself and of his abilities. He has developed an inner peace and sense of calm that has previously been missing. He has become much more self aware.

This program, and its facilitators, teach the students life lessons on the go. They use lessons in horse care and behaviour to demonstrate real life lessons with humans. While we were at his graduation celebration this morning, we saw Dude demonstrate, through a horse exercise, that temptation is all around but it is up to the individual to keep focused on what matters and keep walking past the temptations in life.

During the course of the exercise Dude demonstrated with his horse pal, Jimmy, we saw Dude not only in control of his own emotions but in control of the horses movements. This 80 pound boy was able to control and lead a 1400 pound horse with nothing more than touch and hand signals. I don't think Dude realised it at the time but the lesson was about so much more than temptation. It was about confidence, self control and attentiveness. And Dude wasn't the only kid there translating horse skills into personal strength.

We saw five other boys conquer fears, reign in their emotions and discover inner peace and self discipline through time spent with these horses. All of the boys were leading horses through exercises, grooming them and working independently and as a team. It was amazing to see six kids who could be seen as behaviour problems or academic misfits come together in this program and find friendship and self respect. Each child displayed confidence and pride as they showed off for their family and friends this morning, it was amazing! I'm not generally a crier but this morning I was fighting back the tears as I watched each of their unique gifts and personalities shine.

Aside from teaching the kids how to care for horses and read their body language the kids received lessons on empathy, team work and respect ... y'know common sense things. Things they should know but are somehow noticeably absent from the behaviour one sees in the halls of most schools.

As a mom and a volunteer in the school system I was so impressed and thankful that this group of caring adults took the time not only to teach skills but build character as well. Every week we heard Dude talk about acceptance, kindness and teamwork and how in order to be a successful person (his definition of being a successful person is being kind, friendly and caring ... proud mama moment) you need to hear what people are saying, respond with patience and care about how they feel. For him something clicked over the past few months, you need to treat people the way you want to be treated, with respect, dignity and kindness, regardless of how they treat you.

The horse skills Dude picked up over the last twelve weeks are only a byproduct of the great life lessons he learned ... lessons that I am sure will be with him for a very long time!

For more information on Equine Assisted Learning or Keen Ridge Equine Center click here

There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.
~Winston Churchill

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