"In the wake of the traumatic taunting of the bus monitor in Greece, NY, the nation's attention is once again focused on the age-old problems of bullies and their victims," said Sydney Knott, president/executive director of Horses4Heroes. "Children today need to learn empathy, along with other important social skills that are not being taught in school. We also need to give children tools and resources they can use to make sure they don't become a bully's next victim."
Knott explained that such tools are similar to what Karen Klein attempted to do, including turning away and avoiding the confrontation. But eventually, it became too much for the 68-year-old bus monitor.
"Bullies become empowered when they succeed in overpowering or humiliating their victims. Our goal is to teach kids how to avoid bullies and not become their next victim, whether in the classroom, playground, boardroom, school bus or Cyber space."
8.9.10: Ride to Win is a four-week social skills workshop for 3rd, 4th and 5th grade boys and girls. Sessions, using horses, teach students about respect, boundaries, empathy, communication, cues and body language, (verbal vs. non-verbal), passive conflict resolution and include team-building exercises and group activities. The program is provided free of charge to schools and youth organizations. In Las Vegas, four workshops were successfully completed this spring. Cox Charities Las Vegas provided a grant to get the program off the ground.
Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval recently said, during a discussion about the problems of bullying, "If children respect themselves, then they will respect each other." According to Knott, Ride to Win teaches children how to respect themselves. The program has been endorsed by the Clark County School District, the 5th largest in the nation, and has been called by member's of its Equity and Diversity Committee the "best program to come before the district in a very long time."
Why use horses in an "anti-bullying program?" Knott explained that most bullying victims have low self esteem, lack self confidence and perceive themselves or are perceived by others as weak. Horses are herd and prey animals. They are non-judgmental, they see all humans regardless of their size or age, as a predator or a threat.
"Earning a horse's trust and respect and therefore learning about trust and respect, is the cornerstone of this program," Knott said. "Time and time again, in similar programs at equestrian centers across the country, students are successfully using horses to increase their confidence and decrease their fears and insecurities. Students confront and overcome their fears and are less bothered by bullies or bullying behavior."
Founded in 2006 and based in Las Vegas, Nevada, Horses4Heroes, Inc. is enriching lives and empowering local youth and their families by offering able-bodied, affordable horseback riding programs that emphasize fun and safe activities with horses, mounted and un-mounted for all ages. Participants learn valuable leadership and teamwork skills, make new friends, and develop a lifelong love of horses. Horses4Heroes national network includes equestrian facilities in 42 states plus Canada. For more information, visit www.Horses4HeroesUSA.com or call 888.987.4376 (9US-HERO0.