It is no longer questioned that people from all walks of life benefit from interacting with horses; the animal's ability to help those dealing with both emotional and physical issues has been well documented.
Valerie Buck, a retired exercise rider and founder of Aftercare Continued Thoroughbred Training (ACTT Naturally), takes in retiring racehorses and uses them for unmounted equine therapy as they transition to life after the track. Originally focused on empowering women through equine interaction Buck, with the assistance of trainer Chad Brown, has expanded her focus to assisting students in Mechanicville, N.Y.,–Brown's hometown.
The students involved in the program were identified by guidance counselors; the students may be having a hard time at school or at home, or be battling depression. Buck uses the retired racehorses to help people heal and learn; this group was no different. The goal, Buck says, is to help students build self-esteem and boundaries, as well as to understand mutual respect and how to work out conflict rationally, reports the Thoroughbred Daily News.
The change seen in the students over the five-week program has been unequivocal. To begin, Buck gave program participants a primer on horses and their body language, then a grooming activity began, getting the students comfortable with the horses. The counselors, who remained with the students while they participated, noted changes in each student almost immediately.
Buck is hopeful that the racing industry will fund additional programs like hers, using retiring racehorses as tools to help people build confidence and gain the tools needed to deal with stressful and intense situations.
Read more at the TDN.
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