Equine-Assisted Learning (EAL) is an experiential learning technique that facilitates personal growth by teach-ing social/emotional and life skills through horsemanship and riding. Windhorse EAL programs help youth build confidence and self-esteem, enhance focus, reduce stress and anxiety, and foster self-development and awareness through the equine/human bond. By developing social/ emotional competencies and confidence, we hope to create resilient youth who can successfully navigate their teenage years and become leaders among their peers and productive, contributing members of our community. Our year-round programming, including school-year programs and summer camps, gives youth opportunities throughout the year to develop physically, mentally, emotionally and socially.
Research has demonstrated that EAL programs enhance social competencies and reduce stress among youth participants. A 2013 Washington State University (WSU) study of 5th through 8th graders in an EAL program demonstrated an increase in social competence and positive behavior among the participants, with particular improvement in self-awareness and self-management. Another study at WSU tested the basal cortisol levels of 53 children in an 11-week EAL program. Post-test, the afternoon and total cortisol levels of the children in the program were lower than their wait-listed counterparts. Basal cortisol is a hormone that is released by the adrenal gland in response to stress. Here are two articles about these studies.
In summer 2020, Windhorse Equine Learning and staff from the MSU Department of Education conducted a small pilot study to determine the impact of an EAL program on anxiety levels of middle and high school students. The preliminary results are very promising and we hope to continue our research in 2021. Read our blog post for more information.