Equine Assisted Learning


Equine-assisted learning (EAL) is an experiential learning approach that promotes the development of life skills for educational, professional, and personal goals through equine-assisted activities. PATH Intl. provides standards of professionalism and safety for people working in our industry and guidelines for those providing EAL.

Heaven’s Gait Ranch, Inc. is proud to be recognized as an approved provider by Sheboygan County’s Department of Health & Human Services and Ozaukee County’s Department of Human Services. We are not only an approved provider agency that receives referrals from Sheboygan County’s Children’s Long Term Support Waiver (CLTS) and Children’s Community Options Program (CCOP), but we are also an approved provider for Ozaukee County’s Children’s Long Term Support waiver (CLTS) & Comprehensive Community Services (CCS). All services are directly facilitated by an authorized, credentialed professional on staff.

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In an EAL setting, the experiential approach integrates equine-human interaction that is guided by a planned learning experience to meet the identified goals or desires of the participant. Working on a ranch provides opportunities to teach critical life skills such as trust, respect, honesty, and communication. Animals use mostly non-vocal communication and are in-tune with human behavior. This can help participants to better understand and learn how our non-verbal communication might be impacting or influencing others in their lives. Our horses, donkey, and barn cats ask people to be aware of their surroundings at all times. Through interactions with the animals and people on site, participants learn a heightened self-awareness. Self-awareness is important in order to reveal patterns of behavior and gives participants the opportunity to think in a new way. Furthermore, participants gain self-esteem and self-confidence while learning how to work with such a large and powerful creature. In all, equines provide us with a way to see our internal landscape and modes of operation exposed. They offer us the opportunity to experience humility, compassion and challenge — all critical elements to supporting self-growth and self-awareness.

Because all services at Heaven’s Gait Ranch start from the ground up, unmounted activities allow individuals the time needed to build a trusting relationship. The key difference between this program and therapeutic riding is the focus, goals, and curriculum: while therapeutic riding focuses on technical skills needed to ride, EAL focuses on interactions and relationships.

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Therapeutic Riding

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PATH International explains that people with physical, mental, and psychological impairments may use equine assisted activities — adapted as needed — as a recreation and leisure experience. The emphasis is on an enjoyable and relaxing experience that provides additional therapeutic benefits in the areas of socialization, posture, mobility, and an overall improved quality of life. Individuals may participate in horse-related activities to their maximum ability in an atmosphere of support, structure, and socialization for the primary purpose of intrinsic enjoyment of the activity.

Therapeutic riding is an equine-assisted activity for the purpose of contributing positively to the cognitive, physical, emotional and social well-being of individuals with special needs. Therapeutic riding provides benefits in the areas of health, education, sport, and recreation & leisure. Throughout the world, there are thousands of individuals with special needs who experience the rewarding benefits of horseback riding. A disability does not have to limit a person from riding horses.

IMG_4237In fact, experiencing the motion of a horse can be very therapeutic. Because horseback riding rhythmically moves the rider’s body in a manner similar to a human gait, riders with physical disabilities often show improvement in flexibility, balance and muscle strength. In addition to the therapeutic benefits, horseback riding also provides recreational opportunities for individuals with disabilities to enjoy the outdoors.

At HGR, professional staff and volunteers work closely with riders to ensure safe riding sessions. A new rider is generally assisted by two side walkers who walk alongside the horse to assist the rider, as well as a horse leader. Riding classes are taught by a PATH Intl. Certified Instructor who has a strong equine background, as well as an understanding of various disabilities.



Equine Services for Heroes: Our Veterans Program

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PATH International Equine Services for Heroes assists military veterans through services provided by PATH International members and by providing leadership and guidance for equine assisted activities and therapies. To accomplish this mission, PATH International centers connect with Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers and Clinics, as well as individual veterans.

Veterans of any age can benefit from Equine Services for Heroes at Heaven’s Gait Ranch. We offer both unmounted and mounted activities for veterans who wish to learn more about horses, challenge their potential, and connect with our community.




Heaven’s Gait Ranch offers Equine Services for Heroes at no cost to US Military Veterans.

It is our honor to serve those who have served.