I like to think my job is one of the best positions here at Resolution Ranch Academy, but of course not everyone enjoys spending time with horses as much as I do! Not only do I get to share my passion of horses with teens with behavior issues, but I also get to watch them fail, learn, grow and succeed in ways that are only possible with experiential equine settings.
The Equine Program is not about making a drug addicted teen into the next John Wayne, it’s about learning how to accept struggles in a positive way and coming out on top. Using horses in an experiential setting opens up avenues for problem solving, critical thinking, responsibility, trust, teamwork, humility, conflict resolution, communication, helpfulness and my personal favorite, respect. Without these components a solid relationship with a horse is impossible, much like a relationship at home. Horses are hypersensitive to our emotions and body language so working with a horse is like working with a mirror image of what’s really going on inside. Working with horses creates a sense of security; the focus is no longer on us, which establishes an emotional sanctuary for true self-expression.
I use the Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) sessions to empower entitled teenage boys to think for themselves and make their own decisions. The residents are all taught how to safely handle the horses first and have to earn their progression to a higher group. Horses do not “give” us anything, which offers a sense of achievement for some but for others, this can be extremely frustrating. In a world full of instant gratification it is easy to acquire a sense of entitlement. Luckily, there is no instant gratification in the horse world; you get what you give so to speak. I encourage these guys to think for themselves and answer their own questions using the tools and knowledge they’ve gained throughout the sessions. As they move up in groups, there are more opportunities for riding, trail rides, patterns and “fun” stuff.
Not only do the residents learn the basics of horsemanship, they are also expected to help with chores during some of the groups. The horses are here for the residents to use and ride but they also need basic care and maintenance. Allowing struggling young men to experience this part of the horse program builds on the Resolution Ranch concepts of Nourishment, Responsibility, Helpfulness and Humility.
The afternoon EAGALA Therapy sessions are a complete switch from the structured EAL groups in the morning. During these sessions, myself and EAGALA certified therapists work with the horses, residents and their families to address treatment goals. By using horses and other outside resources we are again creating an emotionally safe environment for the residents and their families to focus on the horses rather than themselves. These confidential sessions can then be referred to in therapy to expand upon treatment goals and therapy topics.
So aside from fetching feed & doing paperwork, I get to spend my days doing what I love with a group of struggling teenage boys that will benefit from this experience much more than I can ever take credit for.