Children with special needs and other clients visiting LHBH’s facilities in Oracle are offered a full range of “Stay and Play” activities designed to improve their physical and emotional well-being. Each activity, whether group or individual, is part of an equine-assisted therapeutic program that targets one or more specific behavioral objectives. These objectives include improved coordination and motor skills, enhanced observational, communication, reading and listening abilities, increased self-confidence and trust, expanded multitasking skills and strengthened connections to the physical world and to other people. Our equine-assisted therapeutic programs, which may be personalized to meet the needs of each client, typically are built around the following activities:
Geared to children and seniors whose disabilities may prevent them, at least initially, from participating in more “hands on” interaction with our horses, “Horse Play” begins with a meet and greet. After being introduced to our staff and minis, clients learn more about their new equine friends. While the minis kick up their heels in our arena, picture-taking is encouraged, and clients may wish to make a collage of their snapshots as a memento of their visit to LHBH.
Off to the Races
Kids are divided into two teams for a relay race. Each team has its own mini, and each child on the team must guide his or her horse through a designated course. Once they have successfully completed the course, they turn their horse over to the next member of their team. The first team to have all of its members complete the course wins the race. This activity not only fosters teamwork, but it also builds coordination and motor skills and boosts confidence by giving participants a sense of being in control as they guide their minis through the course.
Paint a Pony
This activity allows children to express their artistic creativity by using a real horse as their canvas. Kids apply water-based finger paints to our minis, who enjoy the experience almost as much as our young artists. Some participants may choose to paint Native American horse symbols on their mini, while others may paint the mane, tail or another feature. As part of this activity, children learn about the anatomy of a horse, how horses evolved and the different breeds.
Driving Miss Daisy
Clients learn about the harness and how to put it on a mini and hook it up to a cart. Then they drive their horse around the arena. Because this activity helps with motor skills, coordination and core strengthening, it has proven to be highly effective for children and young adults with physical impairments and other developmental disabilities.
Our minis are given some time off while visitors to LHBH learn how to saddle a full-sized horse. Instruction includes an explanation of the Western and English riding styles and the saddles that are used with them. There is no riding with this activity.
Children are given a list and then, either alone or accompanied by one of our minis, search LHBH’s trails for special stones, twigs, leaves and other natural objects that can be used to decorate a horseshoe or make a horse totem. In a variation of this activity, kids take part in a treasure hunt with the goal of finding beads, ribbons, pipe cleaners, fuzzy balls and other man-made items that have been placed on or near our trails. These treasure hunts can be especially therapeutic for children with autism since the activity boosts their observational skills by encouraging them to look up, down and around and be more in touch with their surroundings.
Kids are split up into pairs, with one child the leader and the other “blind.” The leader takes a mini in one hand and his or her teammate in the other. The goal is to get both the horse and the teammate safely through an obstacle course without either of them touching anything along the way. This activity not only builds confidence and trust, but it also helps develop communication and listening skills.
Young cowboys and cowgirls learn about the responsibilities that come with owning and caring for a horse, including feeding, shoeing, grooming and providing basic healthcare. For larger groups such as Girl Scout troops or 4-H clubs, a guest farrier can be made available to give in-depth demonstrations.
Visitors first observe LHBH’s minis as they work and play in our arena. Instructors explain how horses communicate with each other and with humans through body language and other behaviors. Participants are then given the opportunity to try their hand at round penning.
Back to Nature
Clients take one of our minis on a nature walk along our trails and discover the sights and sounds of the high desert. This calm and peaceful activity gives a child with special needs a sense of freedom and the satisfaction that comes with bonding with his or her horse.
It’s a costume party! Children dress up and then help dress up their mini friends. A fashion show follows, with judges awarding prizes to all.
Build a Horse
In this fun craft activity, children create their own horses, horseshoes, necklaces, buttons and other objects using materials supplied by LHBH.
To learn more about how LHBH’s “Stay and Play” activities can help you or someone you love, or to schedule an assessment with one of our equine facilitators, please click here.
To schedule a Stay & Play activity at our facility, please click here.