There is an old saying that states, "The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man." Horses play an important role in the healing process at Kolob Canyon Residential Treatment Center. Equine (horse) therapy has gained wide acceptance as a powerful way of teaching important life-lessons. Our students are likely to experience some of the following benefits: 

  • Develop Courage:  Some of our girls are initially afraid of horses. Riding such large animals is different from anything they have experienced before. As they learn to conquer their initial fear and discover how gentle and affectionate the horses really are, they also begin developing a new pattern of challenging old fears and finding from within the courage to improve.

  • Increased Self-Confidence and Direction: Horsemanship is a new skill for most of our students. They experience the increased confidence that comes from learning how to do something potentially frightening or different. While riding, they learn to be decisive and to provide clear directions to their horse, lessons which often have carryover application into the rest of their lives.

  • Improved Communication Skills:  Horses are keenly aware of the non-verbal cues of their riders. As our students become more aware of how their non-verbal communication affects the horse and how that horse reacts, they also grow more aware of the role that their non-verbal cues play with the important relationships in their lives.

  • Discipline and Positive Focus:  Students are involved in the day-to-day tasks of caring for a horse. Many students learn improved self-discipline through performing a task that the horse needs another to do and cannot do on its own. They often find that this process diverts their focus attention from the negative thought patterns of the past into a more positive, pro-active way of dealing with their problems.

  • Improved Ability to Trust: Our students learn you can develop a relationship and trust something that is bigger than themselves. This is especially important for victims of trauma.

  • Self-Acceptance:  The unconditional acceptance of friendship that an animal can give allows some of our students to accept themselves for who they are, and is often a positive first step in developing normal relationships. As our students feel accepted by a horse, they often come to terms with themselves in a way that allows them to accept themselves as well.

  • Respect for Others:  Horses only respond positively when the proper respect exists with the student. As our students learn both to earn and give that respect, life-lessons of earning and giving respect with family members and friends are an important byproduct. 

Students participate with the horses at Kolob in three different ways:

  1. Daily Horse Chores:  Horses need to be fed and watered each day.  Their stalls need to be cleaned and horses need to be groomed.  Our students are able to participate in these daily tasks.  This helps them develop deep and caring relationships with the horses.  It also allows girls the opportunity to practice DBT skills that allow them to be mindful and have emotional regulation.  
  2. Equine Therapy:  This therapy will happen during individual and group therapy sessions as determined by a girl's therapist and treatment plan.
  3. Horseback riding instruction and horsemanship classes:  Students at Kolob Canyon will participate in weekly horsemanship classes that include learning to ride in the hunter/jumper style of English riding.  Students also learn the basics of horsemanship. 

Parents need to know that our students are never allowed to ride unless declared medically fit by a physician. They are then initially taught basic riding skills, horse care and grooming, and riding etiquette. These skills are taught by outstanding staff chosen for their ability to combine horsemanship training with experiential therapy. All horse handlers are experienced riders and our therapists are specifically trained in equine therapy. While working with the horses, safety is never compromised and our students are never forced to do something against their will.

Students have an opportunity to display their new talents when parents visit for parent weekends. Girls canl also compete in local horse shows as they desire.  Family members share in the excitement of equine therapy as they too can participate while getting to see the progress that is taking place in their daughter-progress that occurs at least partially because she has learned to apply horse "lessons" to her own life.