FEATURE ARTICLE

Building Connections through our Spurs Program

Real people are learning to make real connections.  

Horses have distinct personalities and, like us, have social roles within their herd. This alikeness allows us to identify and form connections with the horses which leads to being more open to connections with Ranch staff, our family, friends, co-workers, teachers and beyond. In 2019, the Spurs program hosted over 400 students, teachers, and nurses, all of whom are learning to build connections. 

Local Nurses 

Spurs had the privilege to host a team of local nurses, focusing on interpersonal communications, group dynamics, confidence-building and increased awareness of the quality of patient care they provide. The nurses have been coming in small groups, fifteen or less, to enjoy a 4-hour program of equine-assisted activities that focuses on building teammate connections. It has been a ringing success! 

Schools 

It is amazing to see how the students are drawn to the ranch simply because they are received with kindness. Our Students are not always accustomed to this and upon leaving they are eager to return.” Donita Ernest, Caney Valley High School, Kansas 

We have been working with over 400 elementary and high school students along with their teachers and administrators. These mainstream students struggle with self-worth, identity, and value. Spurs provides students and staff with activities to assist them in learning how to connect and to give them take-away skills useful the minute they leave the Ranch. 

“The lesson our staff is learning is to ‘recognize the try’ and be aware when a student is not regulated. The tools provided to us through the conversations and activities in our weekly visits to the Ranch gives us more opportunities to help students be successful.”  – Donita Ernest, Caney Valley High School (KS) 

Equine Reading Program  

We have been working with younger students, some with and some without learning disabilities, at two public elementary schools. One might assume their favorite activity would be the fun activities like the ranch relay race, recess with all the games or even the equine-assisted learning sessions. But, it’s not. Their favorite activity of many is the opportunity to read out loud to one of our horses. The one-on-one with the horses results in increased confidence in reading and speaking aloud. Horses are natural teachers that allow the students to make a connection, both with the horse and the reading material. 

One of the teachers shared the story about a student who was not eager to participate in the programs at the Ranch, or at school for that matter. But after their reading session, “I wish I had a picture of the student’s face returning from a reading session. All smiles with excitement and ready to participate in the rest of the day!” 

Making Connection 

The goal of the Spurs program is to provide every client with the skills to move forward, together. Tom Dorrance, world-famous horse trainer, said, “First you go with the horse. Then the horse goes with you. Then you go together.”