BRISTOL – Shepard Meadows Equestrian Center, Inc. is offering a free enrichment program for local students in grades 3 to 12 this August, giving them an opportunity to improve their social-emotional skills while caring for horses.
The program, made possible through a state grant, will be held in five, 45-minute weekly group sessions at the equestrian center at 733 Hill St. It begins Aug. 2 and runs through Sept. 4. Sessions will be held Mondays from 11 to 11:45 a.m., Wednesdays from 5:30 to 6:15 p.m., Thursdays from 5 to 5:45 p.m. and Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. or 4 to 4:45 p.m.
Emily Eschner, program director, said participants will learn to care for horses, groom and feed them. It will also teach horsemanship skills such as haltering and leading. The un-mounted horsemanship program will be held outside on the 26-acre farm and limited to 10 students per session. Each student will be working with one of 10 therapy horses.
“The overall goal for this program is to improve the social-emotional skills of participating youth,” she said. “The mental health of students is particularly important due to the unprecedented crisis brought on by the covid-19 pandemic, including remote learning that has led to increased anxiety, depression and risk of suicide. The lack of on-site education had led to isolation, pain, and trauma for many students.”
Eschner said the “experiential learning” that occurs during horsemanship lessons will be “impactful” and will help students to “bring awareness to their daily lives.”
"The farm is a very unique place; it's very special to many people,” Eschner said. “Everyone who comes here enjoys their time. We’ve seen a lot of kids thrive in this environment, being around horses and making friends in a group setting. We have seen a huge increase in communication and confidence over the span of five weeks. Kids often start out shy and quiet in the beginning but they really come out of their shells by the end. This program is really meant to help everyone have a good experience, get outside and enjoy everything they’ve been missing over the past year-and-a-half.”
To register for this program, email email@example.com or call 860-314-0007.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.