Horses key part of therapy for children in Bexar County juvenile justice program

Juveniles work hands-on with horses; CHAPS program among few in Texas

SAN ANTONIO – For the children who qualify for participation in a Bexar County Juvenile Probation Department equine therapy program, it is a unique and often first-time opportunity to work hands-on with horses.

The program is called “Children and Horses Always Produce Success” or CHAPS.

”It is a unique and wonderful way to bring about change in the children’s lives,” said Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Jill Mata recently as she watched several children groom and feed horses.

The program is available to children who reside at the Krier Juvenile Correctional Facility.

”There is a special bond between animals and kids, and animals are such a wonderful therapeutic outlet or way to bring about change,“ Mata said.

The program includes several phases, from feeding and grooming, to an opportunity to ride the horses.

Therapists determine which children participate in the program.

”They have to sort of earn their way into the program and be a good candidate for the program,“ Mata explained. “But once they’re in the program and committed to it, the children really experience change quickly, and you see the results in other aspects of their lives.”

289th Juvenile Court Judge Lisa Jarrett said that she sees the results in court.

”As they work, they start to learn each other and they start to depend on each other and trust each other, “Jarrett said.

The local CHAPS program is one of only a few operated by juvenile authorities in Texas. It has been in operation in Bexar County for 10 years and is funded primarily through private donations and grants with minimal financial participation from the county.

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