Over the past summer we have started up an Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) Program using our Clydes. So far Nickweb Stud is the only Clydesdale breeder in the world to do this.
What is Equine Assisted Learning?
EAL is a skill development program to help teach the basic life skills we take for granted everyday. We all have life skills, but a lot of the time we forget what they are. During any one course participants engage in objectively driven exercises and find themselves learning valuable Life Skills in a fun and exciting atmosphere while working with horses. This course is built to each individual’s needs. You learn and improve on certain life skills such as Communication, Trust, Problem Solving, Choices, Team Building, Leadership and so on...
So what do we actually do for your 1.15hrs that you are here?
I’m going to use Who’s the Brain as an example in this.
We start the lesson off in the classroom, where you will be briefed on what today’s lesson involves and the specific rules for said lesson. In this case, the rules say that one person must be the brain, one person must be the left hand and the other person must be the right hand. The brain is NOT allowed to do anything! It is a brain. The brain must explain in detail what it wants it’s two hands to do, and the hands are not allowed to THINK. So, if the brain wants to walk forward through one of the obstacles, he/she has to Communicate with the hands and instruct them to move forward and in which direction. Every time the horse gets forgotten about during the obstacles. Oh yes, so the horse is with you during the obstacle phase so that every now and then she can put in her opinion on the situation and help people have a better understanding of what they are doing. In the case where she gets forgotten about, a lot of the time she will just stand there and won’t follow unless instructed, other times, she will walk away in a completely different direction while the brain scrambles to figures out what instruction to give to their hands to get the horse back! As an onlooker/photographer, I find it most hilarious to watch these scenarios get out of hand and see how people panic and freak out, because at the end of it all, they realize that freaking out got them nowhere. Once the obstacles are completed, we then return to the classroom where you are then debriefed. This includes picking a word from a list that meant a lot to you and that you learned throughout the lesson. You then get to elaborate a little as to why you picked that word and then it gets finished off with a diary where you write down what you learned that day.
Another example is Blind Man’s Adventure.
In this one there is always one participant blind folded and that participant will always have the horse. The blind folded participant will also be the one doing the obstacles, but don’t worry, everyone has to have a turn being blindfolded! While the other participant’s have to remain on the sidelines instructing the Blindfolded person what to do! So, the people on the sidelines must have fantastic communication, but the person that’s blind folded must have the utmost trust that the people on the side are going to guide him/her correctly AND trust the horse not to stand on them or run off during the obstacle.
But at the end of the day, we hope that everyone just has fun!