The simple answer is that each Connected Horse Workshop is slightly different because interactions among participants and horses drive the experience. There is no set goal. It is the unfolding, the process that is the success. However, we do have research-based curriculum, criteria and standards that provide guidance, safety and successful experiences for people and horses.
Each Connected Horse Workshop offers four weekly, 2-1/2 hour sessions of facilitated therapeutic engagement activities with horses or a shorter version of 2-3 weeks, 2 hours weekly (shorter timeframe to facilitate COVID19 protocols), discussion groups, and skills development utilizing experiential learning techniques. The facilitators use cues found in typical herd behavior, the horses’ innate abilities to mirror participants’ emotions, and the natural environment to support awareness and skills development. The exercises elicit multi-sensory responses from participants through over-the-fence interactions, grooming, leading and interacting with groups of horses in an open paddock.
Future course modules, including your onsite training, will equip you to implement and facilitate the Connected Horse Workshop.
This module offers a brief overview of our philosophy, goals and basic criteria.
The Connected Horse Workshops help people living with a dementia diagnoses and their care partners learn how to:
Watching horses in a herd allows us to observe interactions that illustrate such attributes as leadership, collaboration, roles within the herd, reciprocation, personalities, and self-care, dominance and control. Often times participants focus in on the attribute that they are most interested in learning more about.
For example, in one situation, a group was just starting to meet a herd of six horses in a large paddock. All the horses were far away under a shade tree. Facilitators asked participants to stand quietly along the far fence and try to get comfortable and just relax without encouraging the horses to come over. The horses continued to hang out under the tree for 3-5 minutes. One grey horse decided to come check out the participants. Then another tall bay horse came over, bit at and pushed the grey horse away. The grey moved away and then continued to hang out just a few feet away. Two participants reached out to pet the large bay horse, while several others reacted to his behavior and stepped away and walked to other side to “check on” the grey horse. The other participants stayed back to watch the whole interaction.
There was so much to observe, so many subtle group interactions, verbal and nonverbal communication, physical responses and so many opportunities to see how each participant responded to the horse’s actions. Even in this simple, over-the-fence activity, the horses gave the group insight into their roles, personalities and the herd dynamic.
Participants had a lot of their own stories to share as to what was going on:
Throughout this course, you will learn about the role and tools of the facilitator. In this situation, the facilitator’s role was not to point out all the behaviors, to teach horsemanship or to be a counselor. It was to be curious about what people notice, what they think is important and what the interaction meant to them.
You will continue to learn more about the unique style of facilitation in later modules.