Horses help students to love lessons

St Brigid's Primary School year 7 student Nattanan Connah taking part in the Equine Learning for Futures program at Palmerston Indoor Arena, Walloon.
St Brigid's Primary School year 7 student Nattanan Connah taking part in the Equine Learning for Futures program at Palmerston Indoor Arena, Walloon. David Nielsen

THEY don't look like the average teacher, but horses and ponies are helping some St Brigid's Catholic Primary School students learn important life lessons.

Guiding horses through obstacle courses and learning to ride and care for them are just some of the lessons in the Equine Learning for Futures (ELF) program.

ELF facilitator Kaye Pace said students gained important social and emotional knowledge during the weekly lessons.

"We focus on developing positive leadership skills and building trust, as well as effective communication and comfort zones," Ms Pace said.

"We translate a lot of the work they do with horses to what they do in the classroom and at home.

"This week the students took the horses around obstacle courses, and next week they'll paint the horses' hooves and take them over a canvas to create an artwork.

"They also learn how to groom and care for horses."

Ms Pace said students became empowered by working with the horses and ponies.

"A lot of it's about tuning into horses' emotions and understanding them," she said.

Ms Pace said the unusual teachers were chosen because of their intuitive natures.

"Horses are a social creature, a herd creature, [and] they flee in fear and tend to act as mirrors to those in their surrounds."

Ms Pace said students developed noticeably over the program.

"Some groups start out quite dysfunctional, and these boys are now working quite closely and being quite calm," she said.

"We're also running a program for Grantham State School and we're working to build resilience with children who were affected by the flood."

St Brigid's principal Sharon Olsen said the school was fortunate to take part in the program, which would enhance students' social interactions and responses in the classroom.

For more information visit the Equine Learning for Futures website at

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