Can Horses Read Human Behavior? A Social Skills Experiment

Can Horses Read Human Behavior?  A Social Skills Experiment
Students at Barnstable Academy find out first hand.

ponytherapyOakland, NJ, May 1, 2014 – Barnstable Academy has teamed up with Three Sisters Farm which is nestled in the Ramapo Mountains in nearby Mahwah, NJ.  It is the home of Pony Power Therapies housing 22 horses, with three outdoor riding arenas, as well as an indoor riding arena.

Some of Barnstable Academy’s middle school students along with Mrs. Celia Kahn, school social worker, began a pilot program this week in collaboration with Pony Power to enhance their social skills class.  “Horses are sensitive,  no-nonsense animals that mirror human behavior and provide insight into the challenges we face in our lives,” described the Pony Powers website.  “Stable Insights is an experimental learning program using horses to serve groups or individuals seeking to acquire or improve on specific skills and competencies,” the website added.

Before launching the program, Barnstable Academy’s Executive Director, Lizanne M. Coyne and Kahn, participated in a demonstration.  “I was fascinated by the whole process,” explained Coyne.  “In our demonstration, the horse was able to read our demeanors and levels of comfort, deemed who was more approachable and who was not,” Coyne added.  “Of course, the horse came right over to me,” laughed Coyne.   “I had my guard up a bit, so I presented as a little timid which the horse read,” explained Kahn.   “It was really remarkable and we thought that it would be a terrific learning experience for our students to see how our actions and behaviors in an unfamiliar setting with horses are similar to how we treat each other,” continued Kahn. “There are so many important social skills to be learned and emphasized in this fun setting,” she added.

For the Barnstable students, the pilot program will last four weeks and will pick up in the fall for a 12 week unit.  Six weeks will be working directly with the horses and team at Pony Power and six weeks will be in the classroom reinforcing behaviors and experiences. “I’m looking forward to implementing this program into my social skills classes,” exclaimed Kahn.

Barnstable Academy is located at 8 Wright Way in Oakland, New Jersey and provides an alternative college preparatory education to students in grades 5 through 12. For more information about Barnstable’s unique approach to middle school and high school education, please call (201) 651-0200 or visit