Graduation Date

Spring 2017

Document Type



Master of Arts degree with a major in Sociology

First Committee Member Name

Dr. Anthony Silvaggio

First Committee Member Email

First Committee Member Affililation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Dr. Meredith Williams

Second Committee Member Email

Second Committee Member Affililation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Subject Categories



This paper explores the use of equine-assisted learning (EAL) activities with special populations and includes a program evaluation for two equine-assisted learning programs developed and conducted by HeartStrides, a non-profit organization in the Pacific Northwest. The study included two populations (N=18); the at-risk youth program included seven participants and the veterans’ clinic included eleven participants. For the purpose of this study, the participating youth are considered “at-risk” due to their risk factors that include socioeconomic status, exposure to stressful and traumatic events (physical, sexual, and/or psychological abuse), neglect, dysfunctional parenting, substance abuse in the home, self-harming tendencies and/or suicidal thoughts or actions. I conducted quantitative analysis on the pre- and post-survey results for both groups, and qualitative analysis on the veterans’ group survey. The results indicated the EAL activities had a positive impact on the at-risk youths’ resilience, hope, agency and pathways to higher thinking scores. The results showed a positive impact on the veterans’ ability to cope with stress after the completion of the clinic. The results indicate implementation of these activities may have a positive impact on participants’ stress and coping skills. Findings from the analyses suggest these programs at HeartStrides are having the desired effect on participants. Based on the results of this study, and a growing body of literature on the impacts of equine-based programming on various populations, I propose utilizing EAL activities with the formerly incarcerated population in hopes of achieving similar results. Overall, this study adds to research about equine-assisted programs, such as those offered through HeartStrides and other potentially effective EAL programs for an array of special populations.

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