Equine Therapy Center, located on 120 acres north of Second Street and Midwest Boulevard, is where children under 18 learn to diminish anxieties, develop trust, increase self-esteem and develop socialization skills.
Last summer, in partnership with Shiloh Summer Camps, Equine Therapy Center hosted six, weeklong camps. Over 400 students from the Oklahoma City metro area attended, most from inner city schools.
Equine Therapy Center started four years ago when Prim Cockrell came to Edmond. Dedicated to horsemanship, she has been an instructor for over thirty years, producing world champion horses and riders. Cockrell holds a certification in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy thru EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association). She was selected Professional Horseman by the American Quarter Horse Association which is an honor, especially for a woman.
Cockrell, the Horsemanship Director, now uses her expertise to help kids. One of the programs of the non-profit organization encourages at-risk and underprivileged youth. Through the program, kids learn to interact appropriately with authority figures and treat others with respect.
“We have highly trained, retired show horses,” said Prim. “Barriers come down when we place confidence in the kids by allowing them to work with valuable, quality animals.” Like Badger, a 22-year-old grey American Quarter Horse, who weighs about 1200 pounds. He’s won countless blue ribbons and won the hearts of many students.
Documented comments from students after attending camp say it best.
“You have to trust the horse and know they won’t kick you.”
“Be calm with horses.”
“You have to believe in and speak to a horse or it gets out of control.”
“Horses can go through bad times just like us.”
“If horses can control themselves, why can’t I?”
“Horses are like people. They have to learn to get along.”
“You have to stay down the right path.”
“You must trust a horse to get on it.”
“When the kids left last summer, some cried to be involved in a program using horses,” said Cockrell. “We took their names and addresses and are trying to get the resources to bring them out here. Some day we’d like to get a portable round pen. Then we can take the horses to the inner city.”
Another program is Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, an effort between a licensed therapist and a horse professional. Stephanie Williams, a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, assists with the program. One young girl from Edmond had a terrible anger problem, yelling and throwing desks. About to be expelled from school, she now holds her head high.
“I didn’t like to be told what to do, but I don’t mind at the barn because those horses are big!” Her behavior has changed tremendously in 3 weeks of therapy.
Some students have joined the Work to Ride Program, where they groom horses, clean stalls, and spread new shavings for points toward free riding lessons. Jennifer brings her two children after school.
“It’s a good opportunity. My daughter has learned work ethics, like she must put forth an effort to get results.”
“Equine experience is a tool for emotional growth and learning. The programs are not limited to riding, but utilize caring for the horses and forming bonds as a means to establish trust, respect, and responsibility,” said Cockrell.
The musty smell of leather boots and fresh hay emanates from the barn. As you walk through the arena, walking area and grooming place, complete with shampoo, curry combs, along with mane and tail brushes, friendly horses nuzzle your hands. Horses are boarded in stalls and four different pastures allow them to roam.
“Our vision is to challenge children in non-threatening ways and break down defenses,” said Cockrell. “We try to improve communication, problem solving, anger management, and relationship skills. We also help children build character by developing spiritual gifts like kindness, gentleness, patience, and self-control.
Programs are designed to develop abilities to overcome negative influences. “We steer kids away from substance abuse and illegal activities that are a trap for so many children. We deal with behavioral problems, A.D.D, eating disorders, depression and anxiety,” said Cockrell. “We take referrals from places like community service programs, professionals, and schools.”
“God has stretched us,” said Cockrell. “We have to depend on other people. I’ve come close to saying it’s not going to work and then God comes through.”
Sally Goin, from Faith Works of the Inner City, says, “Equine Therapy is an undiscovered resource in the metropolitan area.”
Equine Therapy is in constant need of donations and volunteers. Another way to contribute is to adopt a horse by paying for its expenses. Equine Therapy’s goal is to raise $50,000 by the end of December. For more information, contact Prim Cockrell at [email protected] or visit the web site at www.equine-therapy-center.org.