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Equine Facilitated Learning and Mental Health

14 May, 2004 - Warwickshire

Franklin began the demonstration by introducing an eleven year old girl (RS) who suffers with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), to the round pen. ADHD sufferers experience difficulties with focus and hyperactivity and find it very difficult to concentrate. Her medication at the time of the demonstration would have worn off. She was accompanied by her father and her paediatrician.

Her partner for the evening was Jack, a 15hh piebald cob gelding (belonging to Fiona Dean and Kabas Dulimie), who is as wide as he is tall. Jack is a trusty saint, extremely patient, sensitive and responsive. RS had no previous experience of horses before and was initially frightened to touch the horse. Franklin engaged her with kindness and compassion, engendering not only her focus but also her trust fairly early on in the demonstration. He showed her clearly and patiently how to move through various steps of what he called "the dance", showing her how she could stop the horse by saying "Ho" and using appropriate body language, and how to invite Jack to move forward, requesting he go backwards and so on.

Initially the young girl was very timid and rather withdrawn, with her shoulders high up around her ears. She understandably found it very difficult to speak in front of an audience. However, within a short space of time her body language clearly demonstrated her intent to stop the horse as she lifted her hand to request a halt (paralleling a child learning to say no). As she progressed through the steps under Franklin's guidance her whole body language changed very noticeably - she began to relax and before long she had joined up and truly connected with Jack and was leading him around the pen. Leading the dance with this beautiful horse showed RS that she had various skills and was able to lead "a ton of equine baby" (to quote Franklin), through a series of horse training exercises, and she grew in stature physically, mentally and emotionally within a very short space of time.

Leaving the arena, she looked confident and really happy. Any tension had been replaced by smiles of joy, and not once did she loose her focus. Every member of the audience was deeply moved and her fathers face told the story.

This young lady was in the round pen for approximately 15-20 minutes and learned important life skills, such as setting boundaries, learning to say no, and making a request. The fact that she could achieve so much in such a short space of time was remarkable.

Read an Article written 2005 by Julie Brown,
and published in Your Horse Magazine, Feb 2005

Read an Article by Franklin Levinson about
Equine Facilitated Learning