Leadership Skills Training: An EAP Curriculum for Youth
This manual is the result of nine years of using the Eagala model with school groups and other groups of youth with the purpose of improving emotional health. One of the lessons learned is that participants are more receptive when they are working on achieving a goal, such as becoming good leaders, rather than working on fixing a problem, such as poor emotional health. We have found through much experience that young leaders often emerge during these groups that may not have had the chance to emerge in other settings.
Our team consists of five mental health professionals and seven equine specialists at the time of this publication. Each of them have contributed to this curriculum through their facilitation of various activities and feedback on the activities. Many activities have been attempted over the years, and many were quite successful even though they do not appear in this curriculum. Some sessions work better with older youth and some with younger, but all of the sessions included here have been implemented successfully with youth as young as eight and as old as 18.
As in all Eagala model sessions, this manual is meant only to be a guide. When followed closely, each session will build on the previous ones. However, we are aware that the beauty of the Eagala model is that we start where our clients are, so there are certainly times to step away from what is written here and implement activities and discussions that are more relevant for the group at hand. That said, this curriculum is meant to be implemented by facilitators who already have a solid understanding of the Eagala model, with the belief that trained facilitators will be able to use the guidance here to enhance their own individual facilitation style.
The ideas and language in this curriculum have been carefully selected to be as inclusive as possible. Though we have implemented this work primarily with groups of students coming to us through school programs, the curriculum can also be used successfully with other groups of youth and adults. Therefore, we have chosen to use the word “participants” throughout to describe any person who is actively engaged in the therapeutic process of becoming a stronger leader. We have used the phrase “attending adults” to describe any teacher, administrator, social worker, caretaker or other adult who may be tasked with bringing a group of youth to an equine facility. We have used the term “facilitators” to refer specifically to Eagala certified team members and their trainees. Though the word “equine” does occur in this manual, we often refer to “horses” for ease of understanding and flow of reading. This in no way implies that this curriculum cannot be implemented with the help of donkeys, mules, miniature horses or any other equine. In fact, we had a significant number of sessions facilitated with the help of a lovely herd of donkeys as we developed this work.
Lastly, we ask that as Eagala model facilitation teams, you use this curriculum to help develop concepts that work in your setting, with your equines, and your participants. The activities certainly look different each and every time they are presented, and the differences increase when we implement them with elementary-aged youth versus high school students. We realize that some of the activities here may be ones that you are already familiar with, and some you may have never even had awareness that they existed. At least we hope that is the case. Thank you for the work that you do; now make it your own.