Our March Member Spotlight is Starr McAlexander.
Hi, my name is Starr McAlexander. I am the Co-Founder and Director of the Mounted Horsemanship Life Skills Training at Spirit Song Youth Equestrian Academy.
Spirit Song, located in North Texas just outside of Anna, Texas (40 miles north of Dallas) is a Christ-centered, 501c3 non-profit operation dedicated to equine-assisted life skills development in youth and personal development in adults, both as individuals and as teams.
So what is Spirit Song Yea’s story and why did I become a member of E3A?
As the horses in my herd aged, I had to face decisions of what was best for my horses? I wanted to preserve the longevity of my loyal equine partners, each of whom continued to willingly give whatever they could give. But it was apparent that age was setting in and the stress of going to local Hunter/Jumper horse shows and other competition, was taking its toll on them, both physically and mentally. I would have to find a new purpose for them because my staff and students were so attached to these wonderfully generous horses that re-homing them was just out of the question! Our program had been exclusively designed to teach horsemanship and riding lessons while assessing our students’ skills at U.S. Pony Club Rallies and the local horse show competitions.
In searching for a viable alternative, I became aware of programs that promoted equine-assisted learning. After diligently researching these programs, I discovered what our staff and I, at Spirit Song YEA, considered to be the best option – E3A’s Equine Experiential Education. This program showed us how to partner with the wisdom and experience of my older “schoolmaster” horses, keeping them active with less, physical stress while helping my students identify and master their life challenges, capitalizing on their intrinsic strengths. Implementing the E3A Model has revolutionized our programs at Spirit Song Youth Equestrian Academy, now including both unmounted activities for the Texas Youth Empowerment Services and mounted riding lessons using the E3A Model. [The State of Texas has now approved E3A Certification as a basis for providing equine-assisted services.]
So how do I incorporate the E3A approach into a Horsemanship and Riding Lessons program?
We found that the E3A approach to learning is easily adaptable to just about any modality in life requiring connection, communication, relationship building, and teamwork; it is most effective when the approach is integrated with horses who instinctively sense, function, and respond in the moment.
Following the principles taught in the E3A certification training workshops, at the beginning of the riding lesson, a staff facilitator describes the overall lesson and then, team and individual goals are chosen by the riding students. This pre-briefing is done while the students are warming up their horses. Next, the riding students are given a few minutes to discuss and agree on their execution plan to achieve their chosen goals. During the time the students are riding through their lesson, the staff facilitator uses the E3A 5-Question Model to guide the students thoughtfully through their lesson experience (Discovery and Interpretation), assisting the students to be aware of their horse’s response and then to translate that awareness into a different action plan to achieve a different response from their horse, if needed the next time. After the riding lesson is completed, the staff facilitator continues using the E3A 5-Question Model in a debriefing session with the riding students that includes a discussion on how what was learned during the riding lesson parallels other events that occur in their lives and what the students will do differently the next time that type of event happens.
E3A Member since May 2013
E3A Level II Practitioner
To find out more from Starr about the programs they offer at Spirit Song, you can email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
After having been in business for over 9 years, we took Horse Empower to the next level! In December of 2020, we completed the construction of our bright, beautiful 15,200 sq ft indoor riding arena - A true game-changer not only for us but for our community too! Friends & community partners, we cannot thank you enough for your continued...