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How We Do It

Experiential Learning through horse ministry

Our Ministry and Educational Context

At Steadfast, we welcome anyone aged nine and up to apply for an apprenticeship at the farm. Apprentices are matched with a Journeyman/Mentor for one-on-one ninety-minute sessions. Apprentices and their Journeyman work with horses, farm pets, and on general farm tasks to meet the challenges that each may bring. We design each experience to build skills that are applicable to many aspects of life beyond the farm. Most importantly, we invite all who come here to join us as part of the Steadfast Family. We endeavor to build each other up in a way that is empowering and always pointing to the joy and peace of belonging in Christ.


Faith meets educational and psychological principles in the methods we use to assist our apprentices in discovering the empowerment ultimately available to them through the Holy Spirit. This impact occurs through the integration of the principles of Experiential Learning, Connection through Metaphor/Simile, and Animal-Assisted Therapy.


Experiential Learning

Experiential Learning is a principle largely attributed to educational theorist David Kolb [1]. It purports that effective learning can be accelerated through a four-stage process of

  1. having a concrete experience followed by

  2. observation of and reflection on that experience which leads to

  3. the formation of abstract concepts (analysis) and generalizations (conclusions) which are then

  4. used to test the hypothesis in future situations, resulting in new experiences.


The four stages of Experiential Learning at Steadfast may be seen as:

  1. an apprentice experiencing a challenge while working with a horse,

  2. the apprentice with their journeyman observing and reflecting on how both the horse and apprentice responded to the challenge,

  3. analyzing how these responses are similar or different to those they experience in daily life, and

  4. a challenge to apply healthy responses in future life situations.


The Power of Metaphor

Working with horses and other farm animals/experiences through this process is especially impactful because of the use of metaphor and simile. All learning happens through a connection. We make sense of new information by forging connections to something we already know [2]. 

For example, a child may work with a horse to manipulate their way through a maze. If the child observes his or her horse keeping her eyes on her leader, asking for instruction, and placing her steps carefully, the effectiveness of this approach becomes a known for the child. It also sets a scenario for discussion of simile; how we can be like the horse, keeping our eyes on the Lord, our leader, and placing our feet carefully in the paths he has prepared for us.


Animal-Assisted Therapy

Working with animals has been found to be extremely therapeutic in a multitude of scenarios. Animals can reduce physiological and psychological stress signs, such as heart rate and blood pressure, allowing apprentices to feel calmer and less anxious during sessions and thus more able to engage [3].

At Steadfast, the opportunity to work with animals provides challenges and opportunities that allow our apprentices to see themselves in a new light, empowered to do things they would have previously thought impossible. Through the nonjudgmental, affectionate, and unconditional positive regard received from the animals, our apprentices step out of their comfort zone to obtain new skills and self-awareness in a safe and welcoming environment.

We tailor sessions at Steadfast to address the needs of each apprentice by meeting each person where they are. Apprentices are empowered to grow in a full relationship with the Lord in an environment of joy, peace, and belonging.

Additional Resources

[1] McLeod, S. A. (2017). Kolb-learning styles. Retrieved from:

[2] Hume, K. (2018). Teaching through metaphor and analogy. Language Arts, Reading, Writing, Literacy. Retrieved


[3] Winston, E. (2017). Animal-assisted psychotherapy. Treatment. Retrieved from:  


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