New Equine Assisted Learning pilot project is transforming lives of inner city kids

Michelle is a foster parent for two children. Both struggle with basic communication skills. One child has autism. The other has a hard time opening up to her. She was excited to hear about the Urban Horse Project, a new Equine Assisted Learning program for urban youth, and signed up the kids right away.

“The change is incredible,” said Michelle. “Horses have a calming effect on children because they get to be hands on. We talk about what they’ve learned at home, and I’ve noticed a huge difference in how they communicate.”

Equine Assisted Learning participants learn valuable communication, leadership and teamwork skills by working through various activities with a horse. This may include leading a horse through an obstacle course with a partner using non-verbal communication, or just brushing the horse and becoming more comfortable with being in its presence.

“Horses are excellent teachers because they look for strong leadership and they give honest feedback, and this allows the youth to become more aware of how they impact other people and also build their confidence as leaders,” said Nancy McRitchie, Executive Director and founder of the UHP.

“Horses are excellent teachers because they look for strong leadership and they give honest feedback, and this allows the youth to become more aware of how they impact other people and also build their confidence as leaders,” said Nancy McRitchie, Executive Director and founder of the UHP.

Central City Foundation is always looking for new and innovative programs that help youth living in the inner city thrive. We partnered with Urban Horse Project by providing funding for educational materials and safety equipment like helmets, which was essential to getting the pilot program off the ground. “We so appreciate Central City Foundation,” said McRitchie. “They were our first funders, and we couldn’t have done this without them.”

The program has now graduated from a pilot program and will continue to bring kids in through organizations like Urban Native Youth Association and the Ministry of Family and Child Development.

“I was so thankful for this program, and the change in them is incredible,” said Michelle. “Being able to communicate better with the kids makes it easier for them and me to engage with each other and that makes it better for us inside and outside the program.