How do horses help teach reading? With EAGALA Model Equine Assisted Learning (EAL), students see and experience reading with their entire mind and body by creating metaphors for the skills involved in reading. Horses become the reading material or book students need to connect with. Without finding and making some connection with the text, it is easy to drift away from or lose interest in a book. By experiencing how it feels when a book or text is too hard or too easy, students learn to choose a “just right” book. Seeing what tools are used to connect with the book (horse) and how that connection is made, allows facilitators and teachers to use clean questioning to help students discover the importance of connecting and explore better ways to do it through the metaphor.
In a Horse Powered Reading session, reading problems may be made visible by labeling obstacles that get in the way of understanding. Clients create a “Reading River” (obstacle course) that must be navigated with their chosen reading material (horse). Often while reading, readers don’t even know when they have drifted away and no longer understand what the text is talking about. However, in the Reading River it becomes obvious! When an obstacle is met, the reader is forced to stop or move out of the river with their text. “Fix-up strategies” must be explored and used in order to get back in the flow of reading. Facilitators can then ask, “What just happened?” and “How might that look when you are reading?” Perhaps the reader was forced to move out of the river and circle back for a ‘running start’ to get over an obstacle, much like you might need a running start to re-read a paragraph to get the meaning. Maybe the obstacle forced them to take a different route, such as looking at another chapter to figure out what is going on in this paragraph; or to get help by asking another person; or to use another tool such as a dictionary.