Rainbow Horses offers Equine Assisted Learning and Equine Facilitated Therapy for children and young people with autism, attachment issues and those who have experienced trauma.
Many local schools have children and young people with these issues and would like to send groups to us to work with the horses but are unable to transport the children as we are in a rural location which is a valuable part of what we offer: peaceful surroundings. The minibus would allow groups of children from local schools to come for a day or half day and spend time with the horses and other animals. Recent research is showing that Equine Assisted Learning and Equine Facilitated Therapy are valuable approaches for working with vulnerable groups.
Children with autism have a different communication style and this can make them vulnerable to bullying and unhealthy friendships. They often also struggle with anxiety and can find the school environment very challenging to cope with. Children with attachment issues also find friendships and other relationships problematic and often present with challenging behaviour due to their low self-esteem and difficult feelings that they are managing. Children who have experienced trauma have similar needs and are easily triggered into a fearful state that they often mask by behaving in ways that others find challenging.
Working with horses in a relational way as we do helps children and young people become more confident, have a higher self-esteem, improve their communication skills, develop empathy, increase their understanding of relationships and social skills, learn strategies to support them with their anxiety and helps them to manage their own behaviour.
We have a herd of horses who live out together. This allows them to live as stress-free a life as possible and keeps them calm and happy to work with the children and young people. Living as a herd means that they have complex relationships between each other which the children observe, think about and discuss with an Equine Assisted Learning Facilitator or Equine Facilitated Therapist. This helps them to see things from another point of view, think about what a healthy friendship is like and to learn the rules of social situations.
The children learn about horse behaviour and that it is a form of nonverbal communication. The children have opportunities to practice communicating with the horses and think about their own nonverbal communication styles.
Horses communicate their feelings clearly and the children and young people learn about feelings, how to talk about them and how to regulate themselves so that they can find their calm state when anxious or distressed. We use mindfulness techniques out in the field with the horses so that the children and young people learn how calmness feels and have strategies they can use in everyday life.
With a minibus we could reach many more children and young people who are struggling and who are more likely than most to develop long term mental health problems. At a time when local Child and Adolescent Mental Health services are unable to help every child who needs them, we offer a very important lifeline to local children.