Our campus is home to a variety of animals ranging from farm animals to dogs. At Boulder Creek Academy, animals are part of an educational and therapeutic strategy that helps students develop important social and emotional skills, especially amongst each other, as they work collaboratively to care for the animals.
Boulder Creek Academy features:
- Therapeutic horseback riding
- Animal husbandry
- Shelter dog rehabilitation training
Here are some examples of how working with animals benefits our students:
Reading Body Language
Horses communicate extensively through body language and make excellent teachers. Notice what a horse is doing with his tail. Is it hanging relaxed or gently swishing at flies? This is normal. However, if he is wringing his tail or swishing it rapidly, then the horse is annoyed or irritated. Is the tail clenched tightly against his hindquarters? This is a sign of fear or nervousness. An elevated tail means high spirits. The more time students spend with the horses the more they will be able to understand what the horse is thinking or feeling. Working with horses is a great way for our students to practice reading body language.
Respecting Personal Space
Interestingly, chickens have personal space. If they trust you, they will eat from your hand. If they don’t trust you, they will run. Students learn to recognize when the personal space of a chicken has changed and what factors are affecting the personal space.
When we have newborn animals on campus, they are helpless and depend on our students to provide them with the necessities of life. We often observe an animals’ trust in our students. For instance, when a pig trusts a student, it allows the student to rub its tummy.
Horses are outstanding when it comes to teaching students self-control. For example, how do you stand your ground when you may be scared of a larger body? How can you control something bigger than yourself and do it without losing the respect of the one you need to address?
Students work to train dogs from the animal shelter that have never been taught basic commands. Students learn the value of patience and understanding as they practice the same command repeatedly to train the animal. If a student loses patience a dog, it will not react positively to the training. Moreover, the positive-feedback training techniques used by students instill a sense of leadership and responsibility.
A bottle lamb or calf, for example, requires students to take on the role of a nurturer. They experience empathy that naturally ensues when you are taking care of a newborn animal. Students come to experience selflessness and compassion.
Meet Our Equine Staff
Feathers – Behavior Specialist
Feathers has been with BCA for several years and specializes in teaching students about attitude, self-control, and how her rider’s feelings transfer to her while in the ring. She is inspired by students who are calm, relaxed and practicing patience with her. In her spare time, she likes to hang with her other horse buddies and share tips about student behaviors over a game of swish your tail.
Tater Tot – Director of Hay
Tater Tot is our 13 year old Haflinger/quarter horse cross. He is our newest equine staff member and his responsibilities include training students to horse-back ride and the keys to positive animal communication. His calm demeanor and dry sense of humor make him a student favorite and his Tot’s hobbies include hay tasting and reviewing, horse fashion blogging and Scrabble.
Tux – Communication Director
As our Equine Communication Director, Tux specializes in communication and teaching students the value of reading body language. He is 17, which he finds beneficial in allowing him to find common ground with our 13-18 year old student body. Tux was a professional show horse for 13 years where he learned that it’s not about what you look like, it’s about who you are on the inside.
Moonshadow Agate – Fashion Director
Moonshadow Agate is the newest member of our equine therapy staff. She is a 17 year old registered Quarter horse and has spent the majority of her career teaching in the adolescent therapeutic community. Her friendly demeanor, unusual smoky gray coloring and dorsal stripe have earned her the unofficial title of Fashion Director. Aggie is always up for a chat and, being a teenager herself, finds she has much in common with our students and their many interests. In her spare time, Aggie can be found hanging out at the local feed store and blogging about the latest equine fashion trends.