Every day our horses make a difference at McCrossan Boys Ranch. They change lives. They calm fears. They help teach responsibility and nurturance. They give our boys “New Hope for a Better Life.”
We would like to introduce our newest member of the McCrossan Boys Ranch Equine Therapy team, Lisa Hemmingson. Lisa has been a therapist at McCrossan Boys Ranch for the past eight years, providing individual and family therapy sessions to the boys at the ranch. This past summer, she became certified as an Eagala Mental Health Specialist and will be assisting our Equine Therapy team.
Eagala, or Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) is a therapeutic approach that can have an incredible impact on our boys to address a variety of mental health and human development needs. Some of those needs may be behavioral issues, ADD, substance abuse, anxiety, depression, relationship problems and communication needs. McCrossan Boys Ranch utilizes a solution-orientated approach that includes some beliefs that people change when uncomfortable and grow when challenged. This therapy approach promotes human physical, social, emotional and/or cognitive functioning.
Eagala therapy is done by using a qualified therapist and an equine professional working together to provide an atmosphere that allows our boys the chance to utilize non-verbal communication, assertiveness, creative thinking, problem solving, leadership, responsibility, teamwork, confidence and attitude. These are just several examples of the tools utilized and developed by EAP.
The Ranch’s equine therapy program teaches kids all learning aspects of life with horses – from grooming, feeding and tack to animal psychology, biology and riding. The purpose of the program is to help children recognize negative behaviors and to learn positive skills that are transferable to real life situations. Animals often act as a mirror, reflecting emotions of the individuals they interact with.
McCrossan has utilized animals as a part of its program for at risk children since its beginning, and have experienced firsthand the impact that animals can have on the children that we work with. McCrossan’s maintains 30-40 horses carefully selected based on their age, disposition, and health.
One of the reasons the Ranch utilizes horses is due to their size. It creates an environment that assists with overcoming fear as they begin to develop confidence in themselves. Also, horses have distinct personalities – the approach that seems to work with one horse does not always work with another. Horses can be like children, they are social animals, at times they are stubborn and defiant and other times they just like to have fun. Our studies have shown that equine therapy helps build self-confidence and improve communications and problem solving skills.
We also use our draft horses to compete in the South Dakota 4-H program each summer. We have been involved in 4-H for over 50 years and it is a great program to allow boys to see how hard work can pay off. Each young man is teamed up with a draft horse to work with and compete in shows throughout the summer. They can compete in halter, team hitch driving, and cart classes. They are responsible for grooming, feeding, and working with their assigned teammate to prepare for the shows throughout the summer. Our boys get to use the competitions to show off all the hard work and dedication they have put in through those months. For example, this year we had two Grand Champions and two Reserve Champions at the South Dakota State Horse Show in Huron, SD.
When boys come back to the Ranch to visit years later many can still remember the name of their horse!