Six young people in the care of Child, Youth and Family have spent the past month working with a horse whisperer, a therapist and a herd of horses as part of a groundbreaking new project.
Child Youth and Family commissioned the four week project – ‘HorsePower’ – during which the six young people spent time learning about themselves from the horses.
The project partnered horse whisperer, Andrew Froggatt of Talkinghorses, with therapist, Renee Keenan, and a herd of horses. Twice a week, the youngsters, aged between 13 and 16, worked individually with the HorsePower team at Sudbury Fields in Kapiti.
“The programme uses the concepts of Equine Assisted Growth and Learning (EAGALA) which means that the young people learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses, and then discussing their feelings, behaviours, and patterns,” says Renee Keenan.
“We have already witnessed significant changes in the young people, the potential of this as a method to support and enhance personal development is very encouraging.”
Having worked with troubled horses for 15 years, Wellington horse whisperer, Andrew Froggatt, says horses make natural mentors.
“Working with the horses teaches you so much about yourself and what your body language is saying to others – often without you even realising it. Horses pick up on your energy and can even match their heartbeat to yours. They are innately designed to read body language messages in a way so you can’t fool them. In return, they won’t fool you back; they won’t ingratiate themselves or flatter you.”
EAP involves setting up ground based activities involving horses which requires the young person to apply certain skills including non-verbal communication, assertiveness, creative thinking, problem-solving, leadership, taking responsibility and teamwork.
“We are always looking for opportunities to partner with organisations and provide children in care with experiences that are both enjoyable and improve their behaviour. The kids all put their hands up for the opportunity and it’s great to see them enjoying an experience they might not otherwise get,” says Tania Harris, Acting Regional Director for Child, Youth and Family.
A celebration event to mark the end of the programme for the six young people, their families, local iwi and Child, Youth and Family staff is being held on Thursday, 9 July at 11.30am at Sudbury Fields.