About Us Customer Service Catalog Request Guarantee Sale My Cart 800-825-0060
"LEADER" Online: Vol. 10, No. 1

With Free the Horses, California students learn resiliency. . .and meet a real horse!

by Paul B. Safran, Ph.D.

The program ended with a visit from a real horse.

I had an opportunity, as a school psychologist at Portola Elementary School in Ventura, California, to make a positive and lasting change in the lives of 40 second-grade students through the use of the Free the Horses: A Self-esteem Adventure program.

Our Free the Horses program kit was purchased through a generous grant from Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama. This video program is an expedition that helps children believe in themselves, their talents, and their dreams by taking them through the lands of “Think,” “Feel,” and “Do” in search of the golden spiral of success.

As the program was introduced to the classroom, the perception that school was too hard began to fade away. In front of the class, one shy child gave this example of how her stormy thoughts were changed into clear bright thinking: “I didn’t think that I could do the math problems that were on the test. Then I remembered the ‘I Can Do It’ poem that we learned and said to myself that I can do it if I just stick with it.”

After two hand puppets (named Peanut Butter and Jelly) and two small plush toy horses (Chocolate and Vanilla) were introduced to the class, many students began to bring their own stuffed animals to participate with them in presentations. If the children had a problem that they needed help solving, they would place a puppet on their hand and hold it up in the air. When the teacher came by, the puppet was taken off and replaced with an “I Can Do It” hand stamp. “I Can Do It” was also utilized as a computer screen saver in the classroom.


Students brought their own stuffed animals to
join them in class.

Our classroom quest ended with a live horse visiting the campus. The horse’s trainer had also been introduced to Free the Horses. Delivering a talk about trying your best, sticking with it, thinking bright thoughts, and coping with adversity, the trainer tied her passion for horses in with the idea of never giving up until you reach your wildest dreams

Free the Horses also found its way into the homes of several individual clients. As a marriage and family counselor, I am always trying to touch the lives of children through lessons that inspire resiliency, hope, and caring as a way of life. After a mother and her nine-year-old daughter watched the video segments, her daughter put the poems, sayings, and philosophy of the program on her bedroom walls: ‘I can choose the weather inside my head,’ ‘The power is in your mind,” “I can choose my thinking.”

The ideas generated from using Free the Horses in a creative fashion have expanded into Project COPE (Character Opens Possibilities Everywhere). The idea behind Project COPE is to help the whole family cope with adversity and change in the world today. While the children are helped with self-worth issues, their parents—through parenting programs—are fortified with ideas that can foster strength, hope, and optimism in children. This two-way approach may lend a hand in making the job of raising children a little easier as we face ever-increasing changes in our world.


Paul B. Safran, Ph.D., is a marriage and family counselor in Ventura, CA. Information about Teaching Tolerance can be found at www.tolerance.org or (334) 956-8200.

Reprinted from Leader magazine.
Copyright 2005 by Active Parenting Publishers, Inc.