Most traditional therapeutic riding programs are conducted in ways that define the population served as “less than.” In other words, “you” have a deficiency and that is why you get to work with horses and be healed—but you need us (the agency) to do that for you. Additionally, urban students in traditional programs are bused to facilities in the suburbs or country, intimating that they are allowed access because there is a determination of need—again often based on deficiency or if “we” allow it. This method also suggests that a participant’s access can be taken away for a variety of reasons (loss of transportation, changing schools, being “diagnosed” as not “needing” the therapy). LUCK’s philosophy flips this premise on its head.
And, by putting a barn in an urban setting, there is a sense that it belongs to the children in the area so, if they choose, they can learn about horses, help train horses, and participate in riding programs. Thus, LUCK’s message is one of empowerment to the 10 – 18-year-old, able-bodied, at-risk students attracted to our programs. LUCK lets them know, loudly and clearly, that we need them to:
1) strengthen horses physically and mentally so they can help others—be that working with a child who has suffered trauma or giving joy to a community through equestrian art performances.
2) learn the art of classical horse training, a skill that will require you to practice patience, compassion, self-compassion, and empathy so you can help horses find joy in their work with people.
3) understand verbal and non-verbal communication, so you can hear what your horse needs and advocate for them.
4) engage in the classical tradition of mentorship, be willing to learn from others who have more experience so that one day you can teach others what you have learned.
5) trust your mentors as they help you set personal goals and work with others as a team to meet them.
6) Practice self-reflection to determine what brings you joy and allow that to guide your growth developing talents and skills you value.
LUCK’s monthly programs are free of charge and no preteen or teen is turned away. Participants work with horses, some rescued from slaughter. LUCK provides skill building, introduction to horsemanship, and fundamentals of horsemanship programs; workshops for students interested in related trades such as farrier work or braiding; internships; employment opportunities; individual lessons; and opportunities to compete.
Embedded in each programmatic level are fundamentals of Ohio Department of Education curriculum (math, science, physical education) as well as soft skills like critical thinking, communication, conflict mediation, teamwork, and negotiation.
Other Established Urban Equestrian Programs
- Compton Jr. Posse, Los Angeles, CA
- City Ranch Inc., Baltimore, MD
- Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club, Philadelphia, PA
- Detroit Horsepower, Detroit, MI
- “The equestrians of North Philly”, Emily Anne Epstein, The Atlantic, 2017
- “Detroit Horse Power: Urban Horsemanship Provides a Proven Tool for Changing Lives”, Nancy Kotting, Huffington Post, 2016
- “Compton Jr Posse students pick horses over gangs”, Alex Michaelson, abc7.com, 2015
- “Compton Jr Posse Fights Gang Membership on Horseback”, Caleigh Wells, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, 2018
- “The Wire meets the Wild West: Urban cowboys tackle gang violence and drugs of inner-city America”, James Nye, dailymail.co.uk, 2012
- “Working with horses reduces stress hormones in young people”, Katy Muldoon, The Oregonian, 2014
- “Human-Animal Interaction and Metaphor in Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy: Empirical Support for the EAGALA Model”, Angela K. Fournier, Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin, 2018