Equestrian and Other Animals

Started by Lynn Jahl, the equestrian program is a key part of our program giving learners a way to connect with a large animal that cannot be manipulated.  We also have smaller animals in each of the dorms. Learners are often seen cuddling with a cat or playing with a dog.


Horses are included in healing at Adora because they have a powerfully therapeutic effect on people.

“The horse is a mirror to your soul, sometimes you might not like what you see and sometimes you will.” – Buck Brannaman

At Adora we encourage learners to be the real kid.  This is very scary because it first requires them to face their true selves.  A 1200 pound animal provides that opportunity.

Kids avoid dealing with real emotions and trauma by putting on “masks” which can include:

  • Always being “happy”
  • Being obsessive compulsively compliant
  • Hiding from human interaction
  • Exhibiting a Chip-on-the-Shoulder attitude
  • Sucking up
  • Being aggressively defiant

While it may be possible for kids to hide what’s really in their hearts from other people, they cannot hide from or manipulate a horse.

Horses are highly sensitive.  When riding, a horse cannot see you, but they feel everything you feel and take on your emotions.

  • If you are scared, they will become skittish and flighty – not trusting the rider to protect them.
  • If you are angry, they become irritable and frustrated working against you because they think you are working against them.
  • If you are relaxed, calm, and confident, they listen to you and try their hardest to work with you.

Horses see through all falsehoods and respond to the spirit of the child, allowing learners to:

  • Connect with an animal providing a safe means for practicing relationship
  • Get a different perspective on self and the world
  • Receive a non-judgemental yet honest source of feedback
  • Take responsibility in caring for another creature
  • Practice patience and self-control in order to succeed
  • Witness the process of building trust
  • View the effects of their actions and attitude on another creature
  • Engage in proprioceptive physical activity
  • Learn about equine management
  • Gain insight into their own heads and hearts
  • Learn with other learners and offer encouragement to their peers
  • Have fun

Other Therapy Animals

Horses are not the only animals providing therapy for our learners, Adora also employs a menagerie of cats, dogs and birds who share their unconditional love with learners and staff alike.

Our resident therapy dogs, Khazar and Khali, greet everyone they encounter with a big “He-wooooh,” a tail wag, and a kiss.  Jules (AKA Bean) and Bear, our therapy-puppies-in training, brighten every room they walk into with their loving puppy energy.

Our many cats cuddle up with learners as they work on homework, read, or simply sit and think.

Regardless of how learners act, our animals never stop loving them, allowing learners to begin understanding what unconditional love in a relationship feels like.