Riding Horses to Enhance Student Relationships
The benefits of equestrian or horse therapy have long been established as a valuable tool in assisting students with behavioral and cognitive difficulties.
Interacting with horses has been shown to improve physical, social and emotional disabilities but recently, the entire staff of Camelot’s Richey Academy participated in equine assisted activities to help them better interact with their students.
The Professional Development session was conducted with the help of Richey Academy team leader Chris Carter, an avid horseman who is also a member of the Black Cowboys and Cowgirls Association, which raises money for scholarships to deserving students.
“I ride and own a few horses. I was asked to put something together that would use the horses as props to illustrate how to interact with animals of very different personalities. It was a very enlightening experience for all of us,” Carter said. Carter owns two of the horses used in the session, Blessing and Favor. Favor is a 16-year old rodeo performance horse. Blessing is a 15-year old former racehorse and both have very different temperaments, according to Carter.
“Blessing is the calmer of the two and listens to commands given to him, if given correctly. Favor is the more energetic and lively,” Carter said. “First I showed the staff how I communicated to the horses and showed them how they could do what I did. If you’re too aggressive you’ll get a negative response. They won’t respond if you’re too passive. If you’re centered and fair, the horse will respect you. Everyone had to communicate to the horses in the same manner.”
Carter said the staff – some of whom had never ridden a horse before – went through several different activities, riding around pins, loading hay in a wheel barrow, roping hay and riding around barrels.
Richey Academy is a transitional school program. Students there have experienced disciplinary violations and were removed from their home campus. With time, the students from this campus will return to their home schools with improved behavior, attendance, and academics.
The Black Cowboys and Cowgirls Association was organized to create awareness and recognition for African-American men and women who have made significant contributions their community. The organization maintains a college scholarship fund through various fundraising activities. They host the largest African-American rodeo event in Houston. Carter used to perform in the rodeo but says he announces participants now.
“I’ve been around horses all of my life. Just like our students, they differ in personality and temperament. If you approach them the right way, they’re going to respect you and respond. That’s what we were training the staff to do in more creative ways.”