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Equine Facilitated Learning Using BLM Wild Horses
                
     Much controversy and public outcry has surrounded the BLM's wild horse roundup program, especially of late.  The Valles Caldera holds promise for a small, quite manageable herd of these horses.  Their rescue and subsequent gentling would provide valuable therapy animals for clinically proven programs targeting the needs of children and adults struggling with the challenges of Down's Syndrome, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, and other disabilities.  EFL encourages a new visual perspective of independence, building self-esteem, empathy, and a sense of responsibility through the relationship with the horse.  It helps to improve posture, balance, and muscle control as the rhythmic movement of the horse naturally stimulates the way humans walk.  Most recently, EFL has been notably beneficial to soldiers returning from war with Post Traumatic Stress disorder, as well as Traumatic Brain Injury, giving riders self-confidence that they take back into their world.  "It's been clinically proven that just being in the vicinity of horses changes our brainwave patterns", says Franklin Levinson. "They have a calming effect which helps stop people from becoming fixated on past or negative events - giving them a really positive experience".  The results are startling. Even those showing severe anti-social and aggressive behavior become calmer and more communicative. 
     Offhand there are two benefits from this program; one of which is that local community members can be employed to train these animals, which could then be utilized in the VC's own EFL program, or sold for a profit to one of the many programs scattered throughout the country.  Secondly, donations to the VCNP are much more likely to come from a program such as this, rather than the luxury equestrian camps and other alternatives that were presented in the April 8th article. 
Excerpts from "Horse Therapy - Changing Lives", by Julie Brown

Equine Facilitated Learning Program
Social Benefits:
• provides for acquisition, gentling & employment of wild horses caught in BLM's wild horse roundup
• preserve could provide valuable therapy animals for clinically proven programs targeting needs of citizens with Down's syndrome, autism, Cerebral Palsy, etc.
• notably beneficial to soldiers returning from war with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as Traumatic Brain Injury
• community members employed to train & gentle horses

Benefits to the VCNP:
• as EFL gains in popularity, horses could be sold for a profit to one of many programs throughout the country

• donations to VCNP are far more likely to come from a program such as this, rather than the luxury equestrian camps proposed by Entrix

Horse Therapy - Changing Lives            
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As published in 'Your Horse Magazine' A Special Report by Julie Brown
In the US, bringing horses together with children who have mental or emotional disorders has had startling results. Julie Brown talks to Franklin Levinson who's bringing this kind of therapy to the UK.
     Children with autism and attention deficit disorder often struggle to communicate - but put them with horses and they can achieve so much. That's what American Franklin Levinson found when he introduced Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) to children with serious emotional challenges.
     Therapy with horses has been around for ages, but what Franklin did was to take the work of the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association a step further to help children with severe anti-social behavior.
What is EFL?

     EFL is a therapy where the children learn about themselves, other people and interacting with the world. It's not about teaching riding or horse care skills and the children don't need any previous experience of horses.
     "It's been clinically proven that just being in the vicinity of horses changes our brainwave patterns", says Franklin. "They have a calming effect which helps stop people becoming fixated on past or negative events - giving them a really positive experience".
     EFL has proven to be particularly useful for children with autism, attention deficit disorder (ADD) and bipolar disorders - all of whom may find it difficult to communicate, interact with other people and carry out instructions.
     The results are startling. Even those showing severe anti-social and aggressive behavior become calmer and more communicative.
How it works

     "Horses react as a mirror to the person who's with him" says Franklin. "He's a prey animal so he wants to feel safe and is always on the lookout for predators. A horse will become very fearful if he's with someone who's aggressive, noisy, disrespectful or too controlling. On the other hand, if the person makes requests rather than demands the horse will begin to cooperate. He is always looking for a leader."
     This is why horses are so good to use as therapy for children. A child who is given just a little insight into dealing with a horse in the right way can become the natural leader the horse is looking for. The horse in return feels safe and peaceful and will cooperate with what the child asks of him.
Children, even those with emotional or mental disorders, can often manage a horse more easily and more quickly than adults. Children accept things at face value and are more open to developing an equal relationship rather than trying to control.
     A horse is looking for simple and clear commands, and a child, with the right encouragement and in the right situation, can carry these out very effectively. "Go, stop, back up, turn this way or that way" is all that's needed.
     "For children with mental and emotional disorders the positive benefits of getting a horse to carry out these commands are often profound." Says Franklin.
     "Children with ADD will focus on the horse for long periods while grooming or leading the horse when usually they cant concentrate long enough to do anything much. Autistic children who are withdrawn and living very much in their own world will begin to express themselves - often using new words or gestures they've never expressed before.
     "Once children realize what they can achieve their self-esteem increases in leaps and bounds. Imagine what it must feel like to lead an animal through an obstacle course, stopping and starting when you want to, when you usually find it difficult to concentrate, communicate or stay in control?".
EFL in the UK

     Franklin wants to bring EFL to the UK and he's already been over here to spread the word and to hold an introductory course for people interested in becoming EFL therapists. A full training course must be undertaken before being allowed to do this work, and Franklin is planning one for later this year.
     Anyone desperate to get started can train in America with a qualified therapist - they would then be able to practise as an EFL therapist over here. Franklin is happy to mentor people on his ranches, in Colorado and Hawaii, while they learn the skills needed. EFL is well-accepted in the US and there are strict training courses, protocols and standards to adhere to.
     All the children are referred for EFL through a physician, therapist or agency and the funding for their treatment comes from these sources.
The horses
     There isn't a specific type or breed of horse that is suitable for EFL. It really is an individual thing. All horses, perhaps with the exception of stallions and competition horses, can be used for EFL. What is important is that they have a calm, patient and trainable temperament.
Safety is the top priority and every horse has to undergo a thorough assessment before being considered for EFL. The horse must not kick, rear, buck, bite or mouth and he must be sound.
During therapy the children are asked to carry out exercises including leading and lunging, sometimes over cavaletti. The horse must be capable of doing all of these without getting stressed.
EFL horses have to carry out commands without being touched and cant be easily fazed by children working in different ways. For example, a child might lead from the wrong side or not stand in the best place when halting him.

Email:  CalderaOptions@yahoo.com
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You may also voice your opinion or support for these programs by visiting the Valles Caldera National Preserve website: 
http://www.vallescaldera.gov/misc/contact.aspx
or email:  info@vallescaldera.gov
or call (505) 661-3333.

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