Who Can Benefit From Programs at Bridle Paths?
Bridle Paths offers a continuum of services that is unique in the Northern Virginia area. By combining the ground-based activities of EAP and the mounted and horsemanship activities of therapeutic riding, Bridle Paths programs benefit both families and the community. Individuals with special needs can find comprehensive programs that address physical, psychological, and emotional development. Parents and siblings of individuals with special needs can find support, strength, and commonality. Teachers, caregivers, and friends can discover new and beneficial insights and approaches to everyday and exceptional challenges.
Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy

What Is Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy?
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) is an experiential therapeutic approach that addresses treatment goals using collaborative efforts among a horse professional, licensed therapist, the horse, and the client. Each client-driven session includes hands-on activities with the horses, as well as processing (discussion) of feelings, behaviors, and patterns designed to enable clients to learn about themselves and others. Clients interact with the horses on the ground and use non-verbal communication, problem-solving, and creative thinking to address a variety of mental health and developmental issues, including: depression; anxiety; sibling, parent, and family conflicts; behavioral issues; communication disorders; attention deficit disorder; and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The meanings that the client assigns to particular activities or interactions with the horses yield significant insights into patterns of behavior and relationships. The EAP process is solution-focused, allowing clients to arrive at their own best solutions. Because of its intensity and effectiveness, EAP is considered a short-term or "brief" approach.

Why Horses?
Despite centuries of domestication, horses are prey animals. As such, horses' instincts render them exquisitely sensitive to their environments, and to the non-verbal communication of the people with whom they come in contact. During EAP sessions, horses reflect the non-verbal communication of those working with them. Horses are honest communicators, conveying to clients the message that changes within themselves can result in significant changes in the horses' responses. Horses are social animals and are similar to humans in that they live in communities, or herds. Horses have defined roles within their herds, and observation of the roles and dynamics within herds can demonstrate important parallels to human societal interactions. Each horse displays distinct personality traits, attitudes, and moods, and clients frequently discover similarities between horse and human traits and behaviors. In these ways, the EAP process provides a unique opportunity for metaphorical learning. Horses are large and powerful, which creates a natural opportunity for some to overcome fear and develop confidence. The size and power of the horse are naturally intimidating to many people. Accomplishing a task involving the horse, in spite of those fears, creates confidence and provides for wonderful metaphors when dealing with other intimidating and challenging situations in life. Horses require work, whether in caring for them or working with them. In an era when immediate gratification and the "easy way" are the norm, horses require people to be engaged in physical and mental work to be successful, a valuable characteristic in all aspects of life.

The EAGALA Model
The Team Approach – An Equine Specialist, a Mental Health professional, and horses work together with clients in all EAGALA sessions
Focus on the ground – All EAGALA sessions are on the ground with horses (no mounted work)
Solution-Oriented – The belief that our clients have the best solutions for themselves forms a foundation for the EAGALA approach. Rather than instructing or directing solutions, we allow our clients to experiment, problem-solve, take risks, employ creativity, and find their own solutions that work best for them.
Code of Ethics – EAGALA ensures adherence to a code of ethics and a high standard or professionalism.

Therapeutic Riding

What Is Therapeutic Riding?
The therapeutic riding program at Bridle Paths offers adapted riding instruction to children and adults with physical, cognitive, behavioral, and emotional needs. In addition to mounted instruction, lessons can also incorporate instruction in grooming, horse care, and other horsemanship matters. Where appropriate, we may place riders into group lessons to facilitate the accomplishment of social and communication goals. Lessons are staffed with an instructor certified by PATH, as well as enough volunteers, who act as horse leaders and sidewalkers, to conduct the lesson safely. Each of our therapeutic mounts is carefully selected for temperament, training, and quality of movement, and is generally nonplused by the sights, sounds, and reactions of riders. We recognize the importance of families' involvement in the daily lives and activities of individuals with special needs, and we work very hard to ensure that our program is a warm, welcoming, and accepting place for everyone.
Through participation in programs at Bridle Paths, clients will recognize the myriad therapeutic benefits of the horse. In addition to the immediate benefit that riding affords for balance, strength, and coordination, clients benefit from the sensory, tactile, motor planning, and social and communication experiences that horses provide. Clients can enjoy improved health and mobility, enhanced self-confidence and self-esteem, and increased patience and reflection. Additionally, clients can cultivate positive leadership and problem-solving skills, regain trust and focus, and enjoy renewed hope for their futures through working with horses. The program's community of clients, families, volunteers, therapists, teachers, and patrons celebrate the cadence of movement, relationships, and caring that benefits all participants. We share the moments, big and small – a shared understanding between volunteer and rider, the optimism born of a newfound relationship with horses, the thrill of attaining a riding prize, or the satisfaction of sitting or walking unassisted – that make a real difference to individuals and to our community.

HEARTS Project
HEARTS Project includes Gil Institute therapists who collaborate with Katie Fallon, EAGALA certified equine specialist, who provides services with her horses in a wonderful location in Leesburg, Virginia. HEARTS will be offered to individual clients, as well as groups. Parents and caregivers will have a chance to observe and participate in sessions.

"Our daughter's confidence has really soared as a result of riding with you. Participating in the horse show and placing in all those events really showed her how much her riding has improved. She is already planning for us to go again next year. Hope you were planning on that, too! Thank you for helping my baby girl out of her shell. She has made huge progress in the last year, and I know it is a direct result of spending time with you and the horses! The volunteers work so well with her also. I am so touched by their gentleness with her when talking over the dressage pattern, and while working with her in various events."-- GT
Forms and Program Registration Packets

EAP Packet

Student Contract

Rider Registration