Equine Activity Program
"The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit and freedom."
Sharon Ralls Lemon
What is the Stable Life Equine Activity Program?
Stable Life is a working horse farm. We have 16 horses, a donkey, and a miniature horse that all require daily feeding, exercise, ground work and routine husbandry.
We use Natural Horsemanship methods when interacting with the horses. Natural Horsemanship teaches the horse by establishing leadership through assertive body movements that control the horse (the 'horse' who makes the other 'horse' move its feet is the leader). As Equestrians we are required to recognize that every animal is individual and learns in different ways. It is our responsibility to understand how each animal communicates and to adjust our approach in order to be an effective leader in the relationship.
Horses live in a herd hierarchy. We focus on the social nature of the animals and help participants understand how they relate to the animals and other people. Essentially, participants find their place in our herd.
Every moment spent with a horse is a teachable moment and we focus on teaching the right thing. Being with horses requires instant accountability, if you’re not responding properly the horse will let you know and it is the person's responsibility to change their approach in order to achieve the desired result.
Every aspect of equine and farm management is turned into a learning experience. We learn, utilize and teach best practices of equine husbandry by holding clinics for participants, as well as community members, 4-H youth and other groups.
Our activities are primarily focused on building social and emotional wellbeing, resiliency, and on recovery from Mental Health and Alcohol and Other Drug Addiction modeling mental health best practices.
Participants learn about themselves in the Equine Activities, horses provide immediate feedback and mirror the participant’s feelings.
Discussions include protective factors for building resiliency, components of recovery, person centered care principals, trauma informed care principals, and motivational interviewing methods.
Participation is individualized and goal oriented. Participants develop lifelong skills, including:
Participation is cyclical and we all have wisdom to share. Some individuals come with extensive knowledge about horses or mental health issues, others are just learning either. At Stable Life there is no power imbalance. You will often witness youth mentoring adults or peers mentoring professionals. The interactions are organic and healthy and healing relationships are formed.
What Equine Activities does Stable Life offer in their Program?
They say the kitchen is the hub of the home. At Stable Life the Round Pen is the hub of the Farm. During group activities and discussion time participants are with their horses, while discussing life issues as a group. Participants work with the horse of their choice doing whatever activity they chose around the round pen. The focus is based on recovery, problem solving, action planning, and individual and group accountability. Each participant brings a wealth of knowledge and rich lived experience to the discussion and support is peer based.
Activities (Group or Individual):
- Grooming (Relaxing, Connecting, Caring)
- Stretching and Yoga via the horse (Self Care)
- Ground Work Exercises (Leadership Building)
- Exercising (horse or rider:)
- Riding; Establish Leadership Undersaddle, Build Confidence, Ability and Esteem in the Horse and Rider Team
- Strengthening the family foundation: Using horses to work together (for individuals and their family member(s))
- Bilateral Stimulation: Using the horse’s natural gait to stimulate the brain bilaterally with focus on enhancing confidence and self esteem
- Free Riding (hone skills, enjoy the experience of riding)
- Relax in a chair, watch the activities, take pictures and participate in discussion
What do participants gain from involvement?
Build friendships and support networks, healing happens in relationships
Learn and share life skills and lessons learned
Give and receive support, find value within ourselves and kinship with others
Maintain presence while problem solving
Enhance self-regulating skills
Other Equine Activities:
Hanging with the herd:
Horses interact with the people who come into their world. They will stop by to meet you to find out if you are their leader or if they are your leader. Watch the herd interact with each other and learn how they communicate (body language!). Learn how to speak that language, identify your horse persona, and establish your place in the social hierarchy within the herd.
Establish leadership over each horse individually:
Participants come with varying degrees of horse experience, comfort level, self-confidence, and leadership skills. Horses require varying degrees of leadership ability depending on where they fit in the herd and what they need from their human leader. The more subdominant horses will easily take leadership from a person who is not comfortable whereas a horse that is on the top of the herd will need a more assertive leader and may take advantage of a timid person. Find a horse that matches your abilities and helps you grow to ultimately master the horses higher in the herd.
Herd the round pen:
Be in the round pen with several horses to experience the herd interaction up close and personal. Learn how to manage the herd, give direction and set the expectation of behavior to 2-4 horses at once.
Exercise multiple horses at once in the Round Pen:
Establish leadership of the herd: control the movements, direction, speed, and temperament of all the animals at once. Learn how to be decisive in your body language, make multiple decisions at once, plan further ahead, and become more thoughtful in your responses and actions.
Ride with Confidence:
Learn a series of leadership building skills under saddle: One rein stop, yielding the front, yielding the rear, controlling direction, and pace. Master horses of different levels.
Tackle Obstacles and Challenges (On the Ground or Undersaddle):
Establish leadership over the horse by mastering challenges like: going through a gate, stepping on or over something scary, desensitizing to new things, maneuvering around or through an obstacle or teaching the horse a new game. Keep the horse in a learning frame of mind by maintaining leadership and clear expectations.
Understand the Horses at Stable Life:
The people who know the horses best show how to work through the different challenges each horse brings with it. Some horses are lazy and just getting them to move is a feat. Other horses are pushy, bossy, sensitive, or reactive. Learn how best to respond to the individual horse’s barriers and teach them with consistent expectations. Change your approach with each individual animal to achieve a consistent response.
Who Participates in the Program?
Mental Health Consumers, people with trauma, and those who struggle with Alcohol and Other Drug Addiction (Peers)
Certified Peer Specialists
Therapists, Psychologists, Psychiatrists
Occupational Therapists and assistants
Physical Therapists and assistants
Equine Trainers, Equine Professionals and Equine Lovers who want to pass on their knowledge and passion for horses
Veterinarians, Veterinarian Technicians
Community Members, Community Groups
Retirees who want to stay active.
Youth who are receiving services through one or multiple systems of care including: Foster / Respite, Special Needs Adoption, Juvenile Justice System, Special Education, etc.
Youth who want to improve their self-esteem, confidence, leadership skills, equestrian skills or who simply want to volunteer in a meaningful way.
I'm interested! How do I get involved?
Most of our participants decide this is something they want to try and contact us directly (self selection). Others are referred to us by different County programs or from school referrals and some are brought to the farm by their service providers. If you are interested in participating in our equine program or work with an individual who would like to participate, please complete the EAP Participation Enrollment Form and either return it via e-mail or print it and bring it with you the first time you come to the farm. We appreciate it when first time visitors make an appointment so we can give you our full attention.
How is the Stable Life Equine Activity Program Funded?
Board of Directors
Individual and Corporate Donations
Annual Fundraising Events – Competitive Trail Ride, Arena Obstacle Challenge
Annual Hay Raiser Fundraiser
Inkind Services and Goods
What are Stable Life's Equine Assisted Program Goals?
Develop a funding plan to ensure continuation of activities and services.
Increase our working area by adding indoor and outdoor arenas to have multiple activities happening simultaneously, which will allow us to serve more people.
Have funds to hire someone to run the equine program full time.
Develop formal partnerships with professionals who can utilize our facility, horses and participants to provide Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, Equine Experiential Learning and Equine Assisted Physical Therapy.