Horses Help is halfway through a research project that started in September. The purpose of the study is to determine whether or not an equine assisted activity program, such as the Family H.E.R.D., has a positive impact on family function. They are still recruiting families for this project. A total of ten families have participated. There are currently six spots open that are needed for data collection. Participation is free to families who meet the criteria.

Any family interested in participating in the research study will need to be able to commit to three consecutive weeks. The program is offered on Monday evenings, Friday evenings, Saturday mornings or Saturday afternoons, and at least one child in the family must be age 10 or older. The research program is set up in three phases. Each week the family completes one of the phases that will incorporate something new and interactive about horses. All activities and challenges are centered on learning about horses as family members. Each participant will have multiple opportunities to work closely with the horses on the ground.

Phase one focuses on three concepts: building rapport and caring for horses, seeing the world from a horse’s perspective and learning about equine communication. Families are engaged in game-like activities and challenges in which they will experience the three concepts. Phase two focuses on understanding and accepting differences by learning about herd dynamics. Families will learn the importance for animals of prey to work together, accept the differences in hierarchy and personality within the herd and how it relates to family dynamics. Finally, in phase three, families learn to establish and maintain boundaries while working with horses on and off lead. Concepts learned from phases one and two will also be revisited in phase three to help with the success of leading.

Data collection includes filling out questionnaires prior to starting the program, after the completion of the three weeks and again after three months. All names and identities are withheld for confidentiality. The H.E.R.D. program is not a family therapy program, but an opportunity for families to enjoy being outdoors together while learning about horses and interactions.

All families are welcome to participate as long as they meet the following criteria:
• At least one family member is an adult 18 years or older
• At least one child in the family is 10 years old or older (minimum age of 7)
• Everyone in the family is able to read, write and speak English
• Everyone in the family is capable of giving consent to participate in the study
• Family can provide their own transportation to and from Horses Help
• Family will be able to participate in all three weeks of the Family HERD program

If you are interested in partaking in the Family H.E.R.D. research study, please contact Kerri at [email protected] or call the office at 602-569-6056.

Participation in this project is voluntary, and there is no cost to participate.