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For AICSN School, Inaugural Family Equine Therapy Camp Emphasizes Simple Solutions for Everyday Life

By: Clare Willrodt, St. Joseph's Indian School

St. Joseph's Indian School - Equine Therapy Camp

(Chamberlain, S.D.) – Friday, June 4, marked an innovation in St. Joseph’s Indian School’s equine therapy program. In its second year as a therapeutic option for students, the program hosted a first-ever camp for students and their families.

In equine therapy, the school’s Equine Specialist and mental health counselors work together to create space for participants to engage in horse care activities such as grooming, feeding and leading the horses. Also, there are equine-assisted learning activities that encourage team building and social-emotional development. The non-judgmental and mirroring qualities of horses make them well-suited for their role. Equine therapy is proven to aid in developing confidence, self-efficacy, communication, trust, perspective, social skills, impulse control and learning boundaries. In addition, horses significantly shaped the history, spirituality and culture of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people whose children attend the school.

The camp afternoon included activities intended to help families become comfortable setting simple goals and solutions for everyday life. “We are excited to extend the services we offer to our families through this special program,” said Robyn Knecht, Counseling Services Director. A family of four attended the first-ever family camp. The school hopes to provide additional camps this summer. St. Joseph’s Indian School’s staff of twelve mental health counselors underwent special training for the program.

To support the program, a new Equine Therapy Center is emerging on the north end of campus. The 19,200-square-foot center will include a large riding area, tack rooms, a wash bay, a classroom, bathrooms, offices, an observation area and a kitchenette. The new facility means St. Joseph’s Indian School can provide its equine therapy program for students and families throughout the year, rain or shine.

More than 220 Native American students in first through twelfth grade find hope and opportunity through our educational, counseling and residential programs. Strengthened by spirituality and culture, St. Joseph’s Indian School, a member of the American Indian Catholic Schools Network, transforms lives—mind, body, heart and spirit—every day.

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