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Spirit Open Equestrian Program, Inc.: Equine Assisted Learning Program

SPIRIT Open Equestrian Program (SPIRIT OEP) is a therapeutic riding center in Fairfax County, Virginia. Founded in 2007 and supported by volunteers, this program provides youth aged 11-18 with opportunities to grow and develop life skills through a variety of farm and equine-assisted activities. Participants work around the farm and with the horses in a safe and caring environment—learning empathy, respect, responsibility, trust, and teamwork.

SPIRIT OEP courses are taught by PATH certified instructors in conjunction with an equine assisted mental health specialist. Because horses are intuitive by nature, interacting with them teaches at-risk adolescents to pick up on non-verbal communication. Conversely, horses offer unconditional, compassionate, and non-judgmental support to their human companions. This dynamic makes the relationship between human and animal so valuable and unique.

First Nonprofit’s Contribution

First Nonprofit awarded $25,000 to support the therapeutic riding program.

Goal of the Grant

SPIRIT OEP’s program helps at-risk youth in the community address anxiety, depression and non-acceptable behavior patterns by teaching compassion, responsibility, and positive social interaction through use of equine therapy. Results were measured through surveys and feedback from parents and revealed that each student achieved improvements in emotional intelligence, self control, social engagement, leadership skills, as well as motivation and a sense of responsibility.