Horses and Child Development

Embracing the challenge of creating a ‘nature-inspired’ programme which can address the individual needs of children, I asked myself the following:

Can children be helped in some way to experience a fuller, more meaningful life?
Is it possible to elevate their spirits and levels of self-worth through association with horses?

Having witness the incredible healing powers of horses in my own life and the lives of many children, and adults, whom I have worked with over the years, my answer is a resounding – YES!
By working and communing with horses children can explore the hidden world of animal energy and instinct which will provide a safe and natural way to learn about their own dualistic natures.

The Sommersby Ranch Horse-Inspired Enrichment Programme (SRHIEP) focuses on the most fundamental of human needs – love! Teaching children how to give it and receive it.

For this I have sought guidance from the much acclaimed bestseller by Gary Chapman, ‘The Five Love Languages of Children.’

How Do We Identify Each Child’s Love Language?

This is done by completing with each child in a relaxed and informal environment, the Love Language Mystery Game.

The Five Love Languages Are:

Love Language # 1: Physical Touch
(Physical touch is one of love’s strongest voices)

Love Language # 2: Words of Affirmation
(A child reaps the benefits of affirming words for a lifetime)

Love Language # 3: Quality Time
(Quality time is focused attention. It means giving a child your undivided attention)

Love Language # 4: Gifts
(The giving and receiving of gifts can be a powerful expression of love, at the time they are given and often extending into the later years)

Love Language # 5: Acts of Service
(Parenting is a service-oriented vocation)

Learning and the Love Languages

Every child has a primary language of love, a way in which he or she understands love best.

A primary teaching aid is discipline.

  • Proper discipline administered with love can also spur learning.
  • True discipline can help develop a child’s intellect and social skills that will serve him/her for a lifetime.
  • Understanding a child’s love language will help you choose the best method of discipline.
  • We need to first practice unconditional love; then discipline.


Using the Child’s Love Language

Children will reach their highest motivation and success in learning at school when they feel secure and loved.

Helping Children to Grow Emotionally

A child’s emotional maturation affects everything else – his/her self-esteem, emotional security, ability to cope with stress and change, ability to socialise, and the ability to learn.

Motivating Children

The key to motivating a child is to get him/her to take responsibility for his/her own behaviour.

 LOVE – Is the Foundation!

  • A child needs a healthy self-esteem or an appropriate sense of self-worth.
  • A child needs security and safety.
  • A child needs to develop relational skills so that he/she learns to treat others as having equal values and will be able to build relationships through a balanced flow of giving and receiving.
  • But a child’s need for love is basic to all other needs. Receiving love and learning to give love is the foundation on which all positive endeavours can grow.


Every child has an emotional tank, and we need to fill our children’s emotional tanks with unconditional love – the ONLY real love! And, it is only through UNCONDITIONAL loving, that problems such as resentment, feelings of being unloved, guilt, fear and insecurity, can be prevented.
A child’s ‘FOOD’ for future emotional health is physical touch, kind words, and tender care.

In today’s world of overpopulation, high consumption, and technology, it is essential that we make an effort to keep children in touch with the earth: its natural rhythms, the changing seasons, its beauty and mystery. The horse-human connection is one that offers unparallel benefits for growth, learning and healing.

In her book, The Sense of Wonder, Rachel Carson claimed that, when introducing a child to the excitement of the natural world, “It is not half so important to know as to feel.”

What we teach through our programmes at Sommersby Ranch helps children become more aware of the world around them, and we share with them the deep, personal satisfaction of being in touch with nature.