Madison-Plains to try equine therapy
By Dean Shipley
What can a horse do for the behavior of a child?
Apparently quite a bit. Though most of them don’t talk like “Mr. Ed,” they communicate in a way which will improve the behavior of a child. Madison-Plains Intermediate School counselor, Kim Elliott, will soon begin a pilot program for students who are “emotionally disturbed,” in which equine therapy is an integral part. The program is scheduled to begin Monday, Feb. 25.
Quoting Sir Winston Churchill, Elliott said, ‘“Something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”’
Not one to horse around with children who have apparent behavior issues, Elliott has secured the services of pbj connections of Pataskala. It is a non-profit organization which provides “professional mental health and behavioral health therapy and healing to youth and their families, using horses,” said Jean Sylvester, executive director.
Sylvester said rather than the students riding the horses, as is done in physical equine therapy, for emotional equine therapy, both horse and student have their feet on the ground.
“Nose to nose,” Sylvester said. “The client is working nose to nose with the horse.”
Using the horse as “a tool,” the animal assists in problem solving.
Sylvester said because the horse is a prey animal, it is good at reading a human’s body language. It has a “horse sense,” if you will, about the person, because of its role within the herd.
“Reading body language is important to the horse,” Sylvester said. “If kids are acting out, the horse won’t participate. When they learn to work together, things will begin to flow.”
Elliott said nine students, ranging from grades one through six have been identified with behavior issues, which Elliot and Sylvester believe can be addressed through equine therapy. The sessions will run for 10 weeks. Elliot said for the best efficacies, “we’d need 10 weeks to see some change.”
Other students stand “at risk” and could potentially be helped by the program should additional funding be secured.
The cost of the program is $3,500 for 10 weeks. Funding for the program has been approved for the first 10 weeks. But Elliott would like to see members of the community step up to underwrite the program so it can move forward.
She said research has proven equine therapy to be effective as it has been done in other districts.