DFWChild / Articles / Education / School Age / New Program Boosts North Texas Kids’ Reading Skills—Through Horses
equest reading program with kids

New Program Boosts North Texas Kids’ Reading Skills—Through Horses

Equest’s Equine Assisted Literacy Program captures students’ interest

Some children take to reading right away. Many others—including those with a learning difference or another special need—could use some extra help to build their enthusiasm and abilities. That’s why Dallas-based Equest, a therapeutic horsemanship center, launched its new Equine Assisted Literacy Program. The program uses interactions with horses and horse-themed books and activities to advance reading skills among local first and second graders.

The King’s Academy, a private school in Dallas, was the first to partner with Equest this spring. To kick off the program, Equest brought two miniature horses to the campus; students also each received a book about horses.

After the visit, second graders wrote a letter to the horse of their choice, while first graders colored for their horse. Over the next month, the kids completed equine-themed assignments from their horse (actually the Equest team)—improving their understanding of rhyming, capitalization, word sounds, vocabulary and identification of different types of words.

“They were so excited. Their experience learning about horses transferred to their stories and reading and writing skills,” says Shailendra Thomas, Ed.D., head of school for The King’s Academy. “They were able to integrate learning in real time and real life, which gave purpose to their reading and writing.”

The program’s grand finale is a field trip to Equest’s center, where students learned about grooming, read their letters to the horses and enjoyed a horse-themed craft.

“The children from The King’s Academy were so excited to learn, read, write and do their lessons, so they could come to Equest and show the horses what they learned,” shares Amy Causey, director of programs at Equest. “It was a great incentive.”

Thomas says the field trip was the perfect way to cap off the program. “Seeing the spark in the children’s eyes and them wanting to read their letters and their stories to the horses—that’s what learning is all about. It’s about the motivation and their ‘want to.’”

The program is open to all schools in North Texas; it is especially useful for students who are experiencing challenges.

“Typically the schools we are approaching have students who are not at expected grade level for reading,” explains Christine Volkmer, director of community engagement at Equest. “Some may have a developmental delay, or a learning disability, or even a cognitive or physical disability. The beauty of our literacy program is that all of these diverse needs can be met here at Equest.”

Schools can contact Equest (972/412-1099, equest@equest.org) for more information about program fees and availability. The center has been providing equine-assisted learning and therapy to kids and adults for decades; visit the Equest website for details on services.

Photos courtesy of Equest.