BILLINGS - Like most local non-profits, Chinook Horses has faced many adjustments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, the therapy group says its back to work, and busier than ever.
"Chinook Horses provides equine assisted learning and equine assisted therapy. Working with kiddos who have learning differences, and or have experienced trauma,"Chinook Horses Founder and Director Abigail Hornik said.
Chinook Horses is EGALA certified. This means extensive training on individualized therapy has been done.
"We always have at least one professional to deal with the therapeutic or the learning goals. What specifically the herd of horses helps them with, is social thinking," Hornik said.
She has noticed an uptick in requests for one on one sessions during the COVID emergency.
"We focus in on a thing called the zones of regulations, the green zone being one that you're ready, you're focus, you're ready to learn, you're feeling good, you're calm. And the horses are amazing creatures in helping to establish emotional self regulation so that's what we're striving for," Hornik said.
Several professionals are on hand during sessions to ensure the safety of all.
"Horses are amazing creatures in helping kiddos establish emotional self regulation. So that's what we're striving for. The zones outside of the green zone aren't bad, they just teach kiddos where they're at and then we try to develop strategies here in the arena with horses on how to get back to the green zone," Hornik said.
The experience provides social and emotional learning opportunities.
"We get a lot of referrals from CPS, Child Protective Services. I think the reason that we do, is really to overcome trauma, what they say therapeutically, is that they just need one relationship that is safe, and comforting, and sometimes that can't be a human right away, the damage is so profound. And the horse can really create, a loving, safe, non-judgmental relationship that the child can develop, and then extend out into its world," Hornik said.
Hornik recalled a success story of a non-verbal boy whose growth there had him leading the class with confidence.
"There's been studies done that show that horses actually slow down our heart-rate, and they're just wonderfully emphatic creatures, they just somehow know what we need emotionally," Hornik said, "I always say communication in the absence of words."
"One of the major accomplishments for these kids is getting used to being around these animals that are big, coupled with the fact, one thing that our kids that have sensory processing issues one of their biggest accomplishments is feeding a treat to a horse. Because it's really difficult to keep your hand still when there's big slimy rubbery lips rubbing against it," Hornik said.
Two of the favorite animals are the mini horse named Little Debbie, and mini donkey named, Jenny.
"I'm a firm believer that horses are healers," Hornik said.