Horses as animal therapy through Womxn’s Resource Center

Ten students have been chosen to participate in the “Horse Power Womxn Power” program led by the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center and the Womxn Resource Center (WRC).

The WRC spells women with an “x” to include “gender nonconforming individuals, genderqueer folxs, two spirit people, femmes, transgender folxs, and non-binary people,” as stated on its official website.  

(Courtesy of April Kilbourne)

This 12-week program teaches students to build a relationship with their assigned horses through a series of training sessions led by April Kilbourne, the student activities coordinator at the Arabian Horse Center.

The 10 selected students will meet every Thursday at the horse center during U-hour for mandatory training. They are also free to visit Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. through 2 p.m. to walk, groom or socialize with the horses with the guidance of the program assistants.

Basic training will include learning how to groom and work safely around the horses. Further along in the semester, students will be able to guide their horses through trail obstacles. 

“It takes a lot of trust from the horse to the handler to be able to do all these obstacles,” Kilbourne said. “It really creates that special connection and helps to tune in with the horse.”

(Courtesy of April Kilbourne)

The opportunity to apply for the program opened at the end of the 2019 fall semester and lasted through the first week of the spring semester. After careful consideration, the top 10 finalists received their acceptance letters on Feb. 4 and attended their first meeting on Feb. 6.

The WRC, which was responsible for the entire student selection process, received over 40 applicants. During the first portion of the selection process, applicants were considered based on availability. 

Students who advanced to the next stage were called in for group interviews — ranging from one to five people — where they were evaluated on commitment, responsibility and what they hoped to gain from the program. 

Being one of the most popular animals used for therapeutic purposes, horses are known to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. According to WRC Coordinator Sydney Torres, horses mirror the emotions of the handler, which allows people to be more reflective and aware of their own personal feelings. 

“Not only does this opportunity teach students to manage their emotions, but it also helps them become flexible in managing stress,” Torres said.

(Courtesy of April Kilbourne)

Kilbourne added that the program creates a space for students to step away from their academic burdens and helps develop a sense of community, which she noted is especially important for a commuter school like Cal Poly Pomona. 

“Since it is a form of therapeutic animal care, I think it’ll be a great stress reliever,” said Quetzalli Miranda, a second-year business major student who will be joining the program. “It’s also a way for me to give back to the campus.” 

Although the application period for the “Horse Power Womxn Power” program has closed, students who wish to interact with horses can join the Horsemanship Club for similar opportunities. 

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