With paintbrush in hand and a little assistance with spelling, Akhil carefully painted the word ENCOURAGEMENT on a large gray canvas. This particular canvas wasn’t made of cotton or linen, however. It was the warm, breathing body of a gentle grey horse named Hope who lives on a scenic farm in Chesterfield Township, New Jersey.
Akhil, along with four other children from kindergarten through second grade, participated this summer in a program run by Kathy Krupa of Horsetime Inc. who uses equine experiential therapy to teach youths to work together by solving problems. The focus of Krupa’s summer 2013 program was bullying, a nationwide problem in schools that has proven to be a major barrier to student learning.
Krupa, along with her co-facilitator Molly Mihocko, worked with children who are victims of bullying as well as the bullies themselves. Krupa has over 35 years of horse experience and is certified by the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association and the OK Corral. Mihocko is certified of OK Corral and is also a certified professional counselor.
The horses are a used as a catalyst to allow the children to share experiences with each other and collaborate to achieve a common cause. “They may have to get a horse to walk over an obstacle or simply move the animal from one point to another,” explained Krupa. "The ultimate goal is to have the children be able to transfer these learned problem-solving and communication skills to other areas of life such a classroom setting or everyday social activities."
While Krupa’s summer programs take place on her farm, the remainder of the year you’ll find her on the road with her team of grey horses visiting institutions in and around the state. “We tried the anti-bullying program at my farm in in Crosswicks which worked out great,” commented Krupa, “but most of the time I trailer my horses to schools and clinics from Burlington County up to Somerset County.”
Krupa’s programs don’t stop with bullying. The majority of her equine resources are dedicated to helping children with a wide range of emotional and psychological problems and histories of neglect, general behavioral and anxiety disorders. For instance, Krupa visits Carrier Clinic in Skillman once and sometimes twice weekly to hold sessions for troubled adolescents. At Garfield Park Academy in Willingboro, she and her equines hold regular classes for Kindergarten through 12th grade students who have a history of learning, social, emotional and behavioral challenges.
Each time Krupa runs a therapy program with her horses she is assisted by a certified clinical social worker. Krupa explained, “When I bring the horses out they immediately capture the attention of the students which is very, very important. While the students are working and focusing on the challenges they must master with the horses, the social worker monitors the children and tracks their progress from one session to the next. Sometimes you can see progress right away, other times it may take many sessions. Either way, it’s amazing to work with the horses and to watch the progress of some of these kids.”
“The most fulfilling part of my job is when the kids share their experiences with each other after a class,” explained Krupa. “They know they have mastered new skills and they come out of their shells to talk openly.”
Horsetime also offers equine programs designed to enhance leadership and team building for corporations, mainstream schools for students and staff, bedside manner for doctors and nurses as well as emotional awareness for wellness centers. To learn more about Horsetime Inc. and the benefits of equine experiential therapy http://www.horsetime.us or call 609-439-8234.
Meet the horses at Horsetime Inc. in this exclusive video: Horsetime Video
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