A special education class from Rock Bridge High School recently visited the Stephens College Stables, providing students and faculty with an unforgettable experience.

It all began with a simple request from Alexis Bergman, the teacher of the special RISE class, who reached out seeking an opportunity for her students with significant disabilities to interact with horses. Their monthly community outings typically focus on practicing essential life skills, and this time, the goal was to introduce the students to the equestrian world.

Horses are known for their calming effect on humans, and equine-assisted learning activities happen regularly at Stephens.

Upon arrival, the Rockbridge students, some of whom were non-verbal and wheelchair-bound, were greeted with warmth and enthusiasm. The agenda was informal, allowing the students to familiarize themselves with the animals at their own pace.

Under the guidance of Stephens College Equestrian faculty, staff, and students, the RISE participants learned basic horse etiquette, including how to introduce themselves to the animals and understand their communication cues. As the day unfolded, the bond between the students and the horses deepened, transcending barriers of communication and disability.

For Alexis Bergman and her students, the experience was nothing short of transformative. "The horses didn’t care if [our students] were a little loud or needed to move their bodies a little differently," she reflected. "The horses actually were able to help create a calming effect on the students, and the connection that we saw the students have with the horses was beautiful."

From large white gelding, Tigger, to miniature pony, Teenie Turner, students were introduced to and interacted with a variety of the gentlest of Stephens equine residents.

Witnessing genuine displays of affection from her students towards the horses, Bergman emphasized the profound impact of the outing. "Our students came back to the classroom excited to point out horses in books and videos," she shared. "Our field trip had an impact on our class, and we cannot wait to come back and learn more!"

This heartening excursion underscores the power of inclusive experiences in fostering connections and enriching lives. With the support of institutions like Stephens College, opportunities for special needs students to engage with the world around them continue to expand, leaving lasting impressions of joy and fulfillment.



If you would like to schedule an equine-assisted learning activity for your class or group, please reach out to the Stables at the contact information below.
Contact the Stables

Stephens College Equestrian Center

Sara Linde-Patel or Shelby Baxley,
Equestrian Center Coordinators
(573) 876-7144 [email protected], [email protected] 201 Old 63 N, Columbia, MO 65201

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