The Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) program is one component of the comprehensive services provided to the children living at the Ranch in Rupert. AAT is a goal-directed intervention in which an animal is an integral part of the treatment process. AAT is designed to promote improvement in human physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning. The ranch environment provides the unique opportunity to incorporate AAT into the educational and therapeutic curriculum by integrating equine therapy and 4H activities.
The Ranch’s equine therapy program incorporates both classroom and hands-on learning. The program is part of the formal academic program at the Ranch and is an accredited public school program. The program operates year-round and children participate five days a week, learning all aspects of life with horses - from grooming, feeding, and tack to animal psychology, biology and riding.
IYR maintains a stable of 20-30 horses carefully selected based on their age, disposition, and health. Each child is assigned a horse for the duration of their stay. A certified equine-assisted therapy instructor oversees the program, working closely with youth specialists and clinicians, to establish lessons and goals that complement each child’s treatment plan. The purpose of the program is to help children recognize negative behaviors and to learn positive skills that are transferrable to real life situations.
Goals are revised as each child progresses through the steps of learning to take care of and ride a horse. Animals often act as a mirror, reflecting emotions of the individuals they interact with. Through the program, children are able to identify their own struggles, and learn to positively deal with negative emotions such as anger, fear and frustration. The instructor works closely with the program clinicians to integrate the child’s experiences in the equine program into individual and group counseling sessions, and day-to-day interactions with peers and staff.
The Ranch is an established 4H club and utilizes the club as a therapeutic tool. An animal is matched with each child based on an individualized clinical assessment and child’s personality. For example, a child who is struggling with oppositional issues may be assigned a pig so they can have direct experience with an animal with a similar disposition, while a child who is fearful and withdrawn may be assigned a calf to nurture, care for and develop a connection with their animal that is translatable to human relationships. The program runs annually between February and August. The program culminates with each child “showing” their animal at the county fair.
The AAT program at the Ranch helps children learn to become responsible for themselves and others through the care of animals. Children participating in the program learn to build positive relationships with animals, peers and adults. Research shows AAT therapy outcomes include increased self-confidence, and improved communications and problem solving skills.
The Ranch accepts donations of horses that fit into the riding program. Horses are carefully selected based on their age, disposition, and health so that children can get the best experience. If you have a horse that you would like to donate to the Ranch, you can e-mail or call the Equine and 4-H Specialist at (208) 532-4117.