Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Teaching My First Therapeutic Riding Lesson

It finally happened. After six years of volunteering, first with the Cheff Center, then the Allegan County Exceptional Equestrians (ACEE), and now Renew Therapeutic Riding Center, I have finally taught my first few lessons!

Was it one of the most overwhelming things I've ever done? Yes. But it was also one of the most exciting. This is something that I hope to continue for the rest of my life, so although I am very anxious to get more experience and improve with all aspects of teaching, I know I'm going to be learning for years to come. 

I'm currently in Phase II of my certification process. Phase I consists of passing two exams, completing CPR, First Aid & AED training, a skills checklist and procuring a mentor. As soon as that was completed, I recieved my Instructor in Training letter, which means I'm officially in Phase II- woohoo! Now onto 25 hours of student teaching, followed by a 2.5 day workshop, then passing certification- well, either passing or failing after being scored on personal riding as well as teaching a lesson.

For those of you unfamiliar with therapeutic horseback riding, here's a little information;

  • Equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT) are used by people around the world to assist with physical, cognitive, or emotional challenges.
  • For each horse and rider, there is at least one horse leader and up to two sidewalkers. That's a five-body team! Depending on the program, there are usually two or more riders per lesson. For example, a typical four-rider group would have one instructor, four horses, four riders and twelve volunteers. 21 independant bodies! And that's an example of just one lesson.
  • The body motion created when a person is seated on a walking horse closely mimics a human walking on their own. In fact, it's closer to our natural movement than anything a man-made machine could create. This helps riders with physical challenges work muscles that aren't able to be worked in their normal daily lives. It helps with flexibility, gaining muscle strength and balance.
  • Relationships formed between horse and rider lead to increased confidence, patience, and self-control. This happens naturally, as horses are living, breathing creatures with feelings and a mind of their own. The rider and horse learn to work together as a team.
  • Group lessons provide a positive enrivonment to improve social skills.
  • The ultimate goal of lessons are for the riders to become independant.
  • There are programs for wounded military veterans and active service personnel through Path Intl.'s Equine Services for Heroes (they've also partnered with Wounded Warrior Project)
  • In addition to riding, a few specialty programs include driving, vaulting, and hippotherapy.

The informative links provided in this post are from the official PATH, Intl. website. If you have time, please visit the website. Who knows, you might have to find a center near you!

Here is a little poem that's a favorite in the equine world...

I Saw A Child
by John Anthony Davies
I saw a child who couldn't walk,
sit on a horse, laugh and talk.
Then ride it through a field of daisies
and yet he could not walk unaided.
I saw a child, no legs below,
sit on a horse, and make it go
through woods of green
and places he had never been
to sit and stare,
except from a chair.
I saw a child who could only crawl
mount a horse and sit up tall
Put it through degrees of paces
and laugh at the wonder in our faces
I saw a child born into strife,
Take up and hold the reins of life
and that same child was heard to say,
Thank God for showing me the way.


  1. So proud of you!!! Keep up the wonderful work and I really love the poem

    1. Thanks Elizabeth!
      That poem is the sweetest:)


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