equine assisted psychotherapy and equine learning

Equine Assisted Learning for Teens

Horses help teenagers learn trust, relationship building, problem solving, confidence and the value of hard work

Teens enjoy Equine Assisted Growth and Learning - EAGALA

A powerful and effective therapeutic approach that has an incredible impact on individuals, youth, families and groups.

Equine Assisted Learning is incorporated into treatment plans at Elk River Treatment Program (ERTP) to address various struggles including behavioral issues, ADD/ADHD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, relationship problems and communication needs. Through guided activities with horses, adolescents learn to interpret non-verbal communication and assertiveness while using creative thinking and problem solving. Partnering with mental health professionals and equine specialists like Elk River's Vannessa Lombardo, teens develop leadership and teamwork skills, and build confidence and healthy attitudes.

Ms. Lombardo is an experienced adolescent counselor and certified by the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA). She has directed the Equine program at Elk River for several years. An advocate of experiential learning, Ms. Lombardo strives each day to provide new learning opportunities.

EAGALA for Teenagers

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) and Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) are effective behavioral health tools used to enhance traditional talk therapy. It provides teens with unique opportunities to learn about themselves and others through activities with horses. Upon completion, they can process their feelings, and recognize behaviors and patterns. 

Certified teachers and therapists use equine lessons that are compared to ropes courses. Individuals and/or groups are given an objective involving horses and work to meet it. Equine assisted psychotherapy allows counselors to observe the approach teens use to meet the objective they have been given.

Using this type of therapy is extremely effective because it allows teens to experience learning at his or her own pace and on his or her own terms. “Since there is no strict agenda, the adolescent can determine the activity as it unfolds, as well as the direction of processing (discussion) that follows,” Ms. Lombardo explained. It is believed that by utilizing this method, the client successfully meets previously defined treatment goals.

In an EAGALA session, the focus of the activity and processing is on learning and educational goals. For example, non-verbal cues for a social skills group, leadership development for a management team, or confidence building for at-risk teens. An agenda is set and there is more intervention throughout the activities by the facilitators in order for them to insert a lesson when a teaching opportunity arises.