5/13/2008 - New academic equine concentration offered at Judson
By Kati Burns
In the fall 2008 semester, Judson College will begin offering a new academic concentration that will allow students to combine their love of horses with helping people who have disabilities.
Equine Facilitated Mental Health will include coursework in both psychology and equine science. This concentration is a form of therapeutic riding, a program which has existed since 1952 in every state under the guidance of the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) – a national non-profit organization that promotes the benefit of the horse for individuals with physical, emotional, and learning disabilities.
Judson College is currently one of the only college’s in the Southeast where students can earn a minor in Equine Science. According to Judson Psychology professor Dr. Harold Arnold, Judson President Dr. David Potts had envisioned expanding the school’s current equine program to include equine therapy. At the behest of Potts, Arnold spent an entire semester during the school year doing research on existing equine therapy programs in the country to see what could be offered at Judson College.
“We developed the criteria for these classes through NARHA,” Arnold said. “A student can pursue a concentration in Equine Therapy through the Bachelors of Science degree in Psychology or, when available, through the Bachelors of Social Work degree. This will also give students the opportunity, if they want it, to become NARHA Registered Instructors or it will prepare them for advanced graduate studies.”
Currently there are five NARHA accredited centers, throughout the state of Alabama that provide a wide range of equine facilitated psychotherapy and equine facilitated learning services to children, youths and adults. According to Arnold, as part of Judson’s new program, students will also have the opportunity to become a registered instructor by performing volunteer work and then completing a Therapeutic Horsemanship Internship at one of the accredited centers in the Birmingham or Montgomery area.
Arnold will teach Judson’s psychology portion of the concentration, while Judson Equine Director Jennifer Hoggle will teach the equine science portion. Students will be required to take 15 credit hours of core psychology classes, as well as, an educational psychology course and a course about special needs children. Students will also visit local nursing homes, letting residents come outside to pet the horses.
“The road they travel with this concentration, as far as a career goes, will be entirely up to the student,” Hoggle said. “I believe that horses as therapists have been a staple for many years and are just recently becoming recognized. Horses teach responsibility and that is so important in today's world.”
According to NARHA, people with disabilities who participate in this program can benefit physically, emotionally and mentally. Equine therapy can help with balance and posture, stimulating dormant muscles and joints, and increasing cognitive or sensory perception. It has helped those with cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, paralysis, dyslexia or muscular dystrophy, to name a few. Troubled teens have also benefited from this type of therapy.
In the future, Arnold hopes to see Judson’s program expand to the extent that the college is able to offer therapeutic opportunities for people with emotional and physiological needs by providing equine assisted therapy in the Black Belt Region.
“We would like to one day have students who have successfully completed the concentration in equine therapy and who have obtained the NARHA certification to come back to the college to take part in weeklong, summer therapeutic riding camps for people in our geographic area that would benefit,” Arnold said. “This could help expand Judson’s Faith Based Service and Learning opportunities, as well. But that is still a long time in coming.”
For more information about Judson’s Equine Facilitated Mental Health concentration, contact the Judson Admissions Office at 1-800-447-9472 or firstname.lastname@example.org.