Alternative learning environments and approaches are known to improve outcomes for young people and can even lead to recognised qualifications.
Let’s hear directly from a young person at the school who is currently flourishing through the EFL Programme...
Since arriving at Wings, Jamie* has taken part in the Wings Equine Educational Programme. Caroline, Wings’ appointed Equine Assisted Learning Facilitator, conducted two one-to-one Equine Assisted Learning sessions with Jamie and concluded that he would benefit from the chance to learn in an alternative environment. He has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
The EFL approach recognises three major traits of ADHD that affect learning:
- Impulse control
- Hyperactivity and restlessness
- Poor attention skills
Horses act as mirrors to a child reflecting their emotions and responding only to authentic, concise and confident action. As prey animals horses have highly attuned fight/flight responses encouraging Jamie to control his emotions and behaviours in order to remain ‘in relationship’ at all times with the horse he is working with.
Jamie is focussed, calm, respectful and hard working at all times when on the yard. He has developed so well that Wings’ staff feel now confident in letting him spend short amounts of time in unsupervised activities.
Jamie is doing well on his AQA certificates and is proving to be a capable and conscientious rider who will do well on the Wings Equine Educational Programme and has already been assigned a place on the Equine Qualifications Limited (EQL) Level 1 course commencing in September 2021.
An Equine Assisted Learning approach accelerates transformational change through ‘implicit learning processes that are a direct felt experience’ and develops a high sensory awareness in individuals in order that any situation is dynamically assessed and outcomes are intelligently affected.”
There are many benefits of Equine Assisted Learning Programmes, including:
- Developing communication
- Creative thinking
- Improved Self Care and hygiene issues
- Sense of belonging
- Sense of accomplishment
Transferable life skills, and situations
The International Federation for Equine Assisted Learning (IFEAL) have identified many transferable skill and development of strategies to handle situations:
- Care of the Horse and appropriate care of tack and rugs etc. = Being healthy and maintaining dignity.
- Learning routines and taking responsibility = Responsibility and caring.
- Coping with change e.g. unplanned outings or horse lame/unwell = Increasing choice and control.
- Hobbies and leisure e.g. turning horses out for play after hard work = Making a positive contribution and improving quality of life.
- Herd dynamics, behaviour and roles within = Families and relationships.
- Taking risks e.g. looking at risk and forming risk assessments. Staying safe. Riding/road safety, field maintenance and poisonous plants = Safety in the community.
- Horse care and protection/offering good quality of life = Vulnerability and exploitation.
- Money management e.g. practising good procedures to minimise waste = Achieving economic well-being.
“Many young people appear to develop strong and meaningful relationships and attachments to the horses. In turn themes of nurture, trust and safety and of being able to empathise is considered to have importance in terms of being able to build positive and successful relationships, and is related to attachment, and risk and resilient theories. By developing attachments to the horses it has been suggested that young people who have experienced ‘disorganised’ attachments or dysfunctional childhoods may be able to recreate and receive some of the nurturing and unconditional elements missing from their lives through meaningful relationships with the horses. In addition, it has been demonstrated that horses can provide an alternative healthy tactile relationship, argued to be an important element in childhood developmental experience, and that they can provide opportunities for young people to identify with their individual experiences and characters.”
Burgon, HL (2014) Palgrave, Equine Assisted Therapy and Learning with at Risk Young People, online ISBN 978-1-137-32087-2