One unique aspect of the Oxbow Academy program uses equine imprinting addressing sexual issues in adolescent boys. Equine imprinting is a very powerful equestrian session that we do with all our students. Each year we have two mares who give birth to a foal around the spring or summer time. This provides an amazing opportunity to have our students come in contact with the new baby horse within days of its birth and develop a relationship with it. A therapist does a session with each of their students allowing them to address a number of important topics depending on the clinical need of the individual boy. Students who may have been adopted can explore the topic of healthy attachment and relationship. Therapists can discuss the relationship the boys can establish with their adoptive parents, just as the horse establishes a relationship with our Equine Directors and the boys. Here you get to see our boys meet the Momma, Queenie, with her new baby, Scout, who was born last month.
(A boy listening to the horses’s heart beat)
Another topic could be discussing appropriate and consensual touch. In order to help the horse begin to trust humans, we have to show care and concern as the boys pet the horse and even ask it to give up its hooves. This is the only form of defense and safety it has if a predator was to approach it. This is very significant as we talk about some of the foals being nervous to lift up their hooves. This not only develops trust with the boys, but also prepares the horse to eventually be shod by a farrier in the future. These are just a few examples of topics that can be addressed in an equine imprinting session, along with addressing sexual issues.
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy Addressing Sexual Issues in Adolescent Boys
Our Equine Directors, Tony and Brita North, are Level2 EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) certified. They have also designed our Equine Program with our Clinical Director, Todd Spaulding, to specifically address the needs of our adolescent males with sexual issues. This carefully tailored approach helps us meet the needs of our boys on a more individual level.
There are many research articles evaluating the benefits of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. Hauge, Kvalem, Berget, Enders-Slegers, and Braastad (2013) found that “offering stable work and riding to adolescents in an environment with a supportive adult and peers may benefit their psychological development. Using horse activities as a primary prevention strategy may be particularly valuable for adolescents with low prior perceived social support.” Another study specifically evaluating Equine Therapy with adolescents who had been sexually abused states “that Equine Therapy using EAGALA methods is an effective therapeutic approach when working to alleviate trauma symptoms for children and adolescents who have been sexually abused” (Kemp, Signal, Botros, Taylor, & Prentice 2013). To find more research articles on Equine Therapy feel free to click here.
Oxbow Academy is proud of our Equine Therapy program that has been directed by Tony and Brita North from the beginning. Our Executive Director, Shawn Brooks, was skeptical at first, yet now has a personal testimony the power behind using horses in therapy. He states that “those horses pick up on things about each of our students that sometimes a therapist might miss, and they react accordingly, bringing to light the issue that needs to be most addressed for that boy.” Equine Therapy is an essential part of helping our students change negative patterns and heal. To read more about our equine program and imprinting please click here.