The Boots in the Barn program at EAT facilitates a relationship and a bond between the veteran/ 1st responder and his or her horse. Through our program, veterans and 1st responders are trained in horsemanship with the intent of better preparing their horse for its role in providing therapy to others in the community, while at the same time providing a very unique and rewarding experience for themselves. Horses are incredibly sensitive and perceptive beings. Thus, in learning how to approach and effectively guide and communicate with their horse, the individual also learns how to better understand and guide one’s self.
Equine-Assisted Therapy is a welcoming, family environment where veterans can get away, relax, and share time with fellow veterans, friendly staff members, and calming animals. This facilitates an environment of understanding and trust, which in turn significantly reduces stress and anxiety in our participants.
As prey animals, horses possess many of the same needs and encounter many of the same psychological challenges as a veteran returning from war. Common needs between the horse and veteran, such as group hierarchy, routine, safety, and comfort help to facilitate a trusting bond between the horse and human. Unlike interaction with other humans, the communication that participants have with their horses is nonverbal and nonjudgmental; Through body language alone, participants begin fostering a common bond with their horses that is based upon mutual trust and respect. In turn, this bond facilitates the beginning of emotional healing for the participant.
In order to build trust, respect, and bond with their horses, participants are challenged to execute many tasks that require the demonstration of initiative, confidence, commitment, honesty, and empathy. Through the experiences gained in applying these attributes, a participant develops:
- Purpose – Committing as the horse’s advocate
- Teamwork – Performing as the horse’s partner
- Leadership – Establishing one’s self as the horse’s leader
- Communication – Communicating clearly and concisely
- Commitment – Never letting down or giving up
- Self-awareness – Control of physical movement and posture
- Self-control – Controlling emotion
- Self-esteem – Building confidence by overcoming fear
- Self-efficacy – Experiencing accomplishment through success
- Self-understanding – Learning about one’s self through horse’s behavior
- Social skills – Using the relationship with the horse to enhance relationships with people
Throughout the program, we focus on developing leadership, self-awareness, confidence, patience, consistency, and courage while learning the basics of horsemanship. Once veterans/ 1st responders progress through the program, they are encouraged to continue their time with EAT by helping guide future Boots in the Barn classes, as well as other programs and activities at EAT they may be interested in.
If you have questions about our Boots in the Barn program, please e-mail us at email@example.com