Northern Learning Program uses horses to teach communication and empathy

Life skills training through the basics of riding.

A long-standing horse-assisted learning program continues to serve the needs of Dawson Creek and Alberta Peace residents, providing life skills training through the basics of horseback riding.

Brianne Hingley, horse-assisted learning facilitator, runs the program in Baytree, Alta., and says it’s really about horses teaching people, not the other way around

“When you have a twelve hundred pound teacher and he tries to tell you something, you do your best to meet his needs. You do everything you can to make it work, that’s why it is such an effective element to work with individuals,” she said.

No riding takes place at the facility, Hingley added, noting that the primary role of horses is as living, breathing, educators – providing insight and empathy.

“If we can, we always try to work with the horses loose, without lead ropes or any help, because it gives them a more authentic or easier way to respond as a horse,” Hingley said. “And so we work with a horse because the horse will put clients and attendees under a little pressure that’s a little different than what you feel in human interaction.”

The focus is always on improving communication and learning empathy with horses, says Hingley, an activity that builds soft skills in individuals – improving the way people interact with others in their personal and professional relationships.

Hingley says their program has been used by first responders, social workers, nurses, teachers and other professionals wanting to improve their communication skills, in addition to helping those at risk through North Wind Wellness. Center and other community organizations.

“It’s actually a science-based program, and that’s also what I really like. That’s why we can bring in such a wide variety of groups and we’re able to fill so many roles in the community,” Hingley said, noting that they never change the way they work with horses, no matter what. either the group.

Horse Lake First Nations were also invited to participate in training at the Baytree facility, with Indigenous youth traveling in May for a vocational life skills workshop.

Hingley began working with horses as a teenager, shortly after moving from Alberta to Dawson Creek, a path she never expected but which quickly became a lifelong passion and a rewarding career.

“Part of our formula is to work with community organizations, the most important thing is to serve the community in any way possible,” she said.

Tom Summer, Alaska Highway News, Local Journalism Initiative. Email Tom at [email protected]

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