Agape East has the great fortune to work with Lawrence Central High School in an ongoing equine-assisted learning partnership. During these classes, curriculum is used that teaches students valuable life-skills such as building trust, working together, and effective communication. When the students enter the barn, their excitement and joy is palpable. They can hardly wait to sit down and find out what we are learning about that day. We always start in the classroom with a discussion regarding that day’s topic and how it can relate to ourselves, and to working with our horses. The students are then brought into the barn to be matched with their equine partner for some therapeutic grooming time before going into the arena for the days lesson.

Often, when we discuss a topic in the classroom, the horses make the lesson much more real as they “mirror” or “reflect” our true intentions. Horses can sense when what is being asked of them is coming from the proper place in ones heart. Learning the difference between asking a horse with a question in your voice such as “walk-on….?” versus confidently telling them to “walk on” can teach us lessons on how to properly communicate and assert our needs with one another in the real world.

While grooming, one of the students shared  that he had started a job at a grocery store. During one of his shifts he had been hungry but his manager neglected to give him a break. He was worried about how to ask for a break. He didn’t want to get in trouble and knew he couldn’t take a break whenever he felt like. The angst in his voice was heartbreaking. It was easy to tell that this was a difficult situation for the student. The instructor explained to him that he should talk his manager like he talks to his horse. He needed to speak confidently and with conviction in his voice, but not in an angry or argumentative way. This type of communication was something the student had been working on in class as he learned how to find that “happy medium” of asking politely but without hesitation or being intimidated.

When the student returned to the barn the following week, he had stars in his eyes and a smile on his face. He explained that he had calmly explained to his manager that he needed a break during his shift- and he got one! The student was stunned to realize that he had the tools to effectively make a difference for himself, all because of horses and coming to Agape.

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