'Take the Reins with Positive Action' participants and volunteers at the final session on October 5.
By ROSELYNN YAZZIE
FORT HALL — “Take the Reins with Positive Action” just finished its first series for a group of 15 youth ages 10-15 years-old to teach life skills that promotes to be heard, find your herd and trust yourself.
The program is free and was developed by Southeastern Idaho Public Health grant coordinator and Health Education Specialist Chessie Meyer, in partnership with Amanda Kumiko Kent, a leadership coach who focuses on Equine Guided Education, to design and offer the hands-on experience. She has worked with horses her whole life, but within the equine coaching model she’s been doing it for 10 years. She really likes this method that keeps the focus on the horses and what feedback they’re giving to them to reflect on their attitudes and energy they’re putting out there so they can approach them in different ways, or approach the people in their lives in different ways.
The activities are held at Kent’s facility on the southside of the Fort Hall Reservation.
According to a press release, Equine Guided Education helps youth set boundaries, increase confidence, heighten problem-solving skills, cope with challenges and experience how their emotions affect those around them. Teens begin to understand body language and social cues. Kent feels that one of the biggest advantages of working with horses is, “students have the chance to witness the reactions to their energy and emotions. If they don’t like the reaction they are getting, they can try changing their attitudes and approach to get a different response.”
Students from Sho-Ban Jr/Sr High School, Highland High School, Hawthorne Middle School and others have been gathering on Tuesdays and Thursdays starting September 14, after school, to get outdoors and in the field to work within a herd of horses. Exercises have been designed to showcase trust, raising and lowering of energy, setting boundaries, and teamwork; including clear roles and communication.
A participant pets one of the horses as she does her feedback
Students have learned about self-care through exercising, grooming and observing the herd. Some exercises, though frustrating at first, have challenged the groups to think outside the box, try new approaches and listen to each idea presented within the ‘herd.’
“It’s amazing to stand with the observers watching a group struggle to get to their goal, and see the light bulb’s start popping up. You hear them discuss what they see not working and why, or hear them claim the new way they will try to step up. The power in listening and observing is best learned first-hand,” said Kent.
She said the exercises also help the kids to get out of their own little world and lets them realize their effect on everybody around them. The simple grooming exercises offer them a chance to slow down in their day and get off their phones and focus on the amazing, non-judgmental creature who is full of love and kindness for them.
Their final day was on Tuesday, October 5. The students walked with the horses around the property as a group, meanwhile reading the horse energy in the hopes of leading them without a reign. They had the chance to take a post survey meant to show whether the program made an impact of them or not. They also spent time critiquing the horses with the feedback used to further develop strengths and find places to improve.
A certificate of completion and beaded horseshoe was presented to each participant
who completed the program.
Concluding the program each of the students were given a Certificate of Completion and a beaded horseshoe to commemorate their effort.
Kent said the biggest thing she’s noticed with the students since they started was learning when to rise and lower their energy when they work with the horses, also how to set boundaries and how to work and talk with one another. She said it took the kids a few sessions to get comfortable with one another, but through doing the exercises together they have learned to help and build trust.
Leadership Coach Amanda Kumiko Kent gives instruction.
Hailey N. Martinez, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, and certified in Equine Assisted Learning, has brought valuable experience and discussions to students and activities, and adds to the “Take the Reins” herd. She does co-facilitation and oversees safety for the horses and the youth.
“Take the Reins with Positive Action” is an event made possible by the Idaho Office of Drug Policy’s Partnership for Success grant. Kent said they have funding for maybe two more events and the ultimate goal is to find their own funding to continue the program through outside sources, or fund raising.
Participants bond with horses during an exercise.
The desired outcome of “Take the Reins with Positive Action” is that students are able to make decisions and take action to lead healthy, positive lives, while having the confidence to say no to harmful choices such as smoking, or using drugs or alcohol.
“Take the Reins” will hold classes again in 2022. For more information, to be added to the waitlist, or to find out how to support the program, please contact, Amanda Kumiko Kent, firstname.lastname@example.org, 208-241-4911.