Interest in equine-assisted learning (EAL) has grown rapidly among behavioral health professionals. The available research on the effects of EAL are limited, sparse, and mostly exploratory in nature. In this feasibility study, we evaluated the effectiveness of an EAL intervention, the Just Ask Yourself to Care (JAYC) program, for youth with disabilities. The eight-week JAYC curriculum is psycho-educational, strength-based, and resiliency-focused. We hypothesized that participation in the JAYC program would lead to improvement in social skills, empathy, and self-confidence.

Children with disabilities (n = 25) at two sites participated in a feasibility study of implementation and evaluation procedures. Before and after completing the curriculum, children completed two measures, the Self-Efficacy Scale and the Basic Empathy Scale. Parents of participants completed the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). Program facilitators completed a fidelity checklist of activities completed during each session. All surveys were self-administered.

The findings demonstrated the feasibility of implementing the JAYC program with fidelity and evaluating the program using the SDQ surveys with parents. The analysis of SDQ data indicates promising trends, although changes were not statistically significant. Specifically, parents reported small improvements in conduct problems, peer problems, prosocial behavior, and internalizing symptoms. In the case of prosocial behavior, scores improved to be consistent with normative scores from a national sample. Children’s scores on the Self-Efficacy Questionnaire indicated statistically significant improvement in self-efficacy.

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