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Milford Beacon
  • Local equine facility teaches at-risk teens patience, respect

  • A state grant, which runs out this December, has funded a new local facility’s after-school program for at-risk teens that working therapists said has increased patience and respect, all through learning alongside a horse.
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  • A state grant, which runs out this December, has funded a new local facility’s after-school program for at-risk teens that working therapists said has increased patience and respect, all through learning alongside a horse.
    Courageous Hearts Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Learning Center, LLC, which took its first paying client in March, now hopes that the state will continue to sponsor the after-school program throughout the summer and fall, to reach children who may not have otherwise had exposure to equine-assisted learning.
    Courageous Hearts received a $20,000 grant from Delaware’s Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families’ Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services this fall to offer two-hour classes three times a week in partnership with local organizations working with at-risk children.
    The methods used at Courageous Hearts allow for the children to take responsibility of their learning situation, to evaluate the behavior and responses of a 1,000-pound animal, and apply their observations accordingly.
    The grant, which was awarded Sept. 24, is part of Gov. Jack Markell’s $2.2 million initiative to support after-school prevention programs. Mini-grants up to $20,000 were awarded to 13 Delaware organizations, including the Greater Milford Boys & Girls Club and Dover High School’s Girls on the Run Program.
    The remaining $1.9 million will provide larger-scale contracts for eligible programs across the state. Those contracts have not yet been awarded, and Courageous Hearts hopes the state will choose them again, from more than 40 candidates, to continue the after-school prevention program.
    The after-school program provided by Courageous Hearts benefited three local organizations: First State Community Action Agency, Fellowship Health Resources and Coverdale Crossroads Community Center, using horses to work on issues including suicide prevention, drug and alcohol prevention and behavioral problems.
    “This is the only type of prevention program we’re funding in the state that uses horses,” said Yvonne Bunch, program manager at the Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services. Bunch, who has been involved with overseeing the grant and the program at Courageous Hearts, said the services provided with equine assisted learning are unique and engaging.
    “The benefit is that you’re taking kids from at-risk or underserved areas and this may be their first time with a horse or being on a farm,” Bunch said. “The program here is very engaging. It requires trust on both parts.”
    Penelope Pitts, a therapist at Fellowship Health Resources, said that in just a couple months, she has seen the program’s positive results. She said the participating children learned teamwork and communication skills, and also experienced a reduction of impulsive behavior and an increase in patience.
    Participant Ariel Peters, 15, said the program at Courageous Hearts has not only helped her by learning patience, especially with her siblings, but has also taught her larger life lessons.
    Page 2 of 2 - “The horses help by teaching that when they don’t go over an obstacle, it shows there are always obstacles in your life that are going to be tough to overcome,” Peters said. “It’s helped a lot with me getting through and learning how to overcome those obstacles.”

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