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TheRoughrider21 07-10-2010 03:34 PM

Therapeutic Riding Volunteer
I probably spelled the title all wrong...sorry. So I want to start volunteering at our local therapeutic riding program. I was just wondering, does anyone else here do it and if so, what are some pointers or tips that you can give me? I love being with people and I can always find something to talk about. I love working with animals(horses the most) and people usually tell me I could be an animal-whisperer because I have a frightening ability(to other people)to understand animals and make my actions match what they need me to do. I would probably do any job except being a side-walker as that is the job that scares me the most, that I believe and feel has the most responsibilty. So any tips, pointers, words of advice, anything would be greatly appreciated. Here's the link to the therapuetic riding program's page. Thanks! =)

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wintec 07-10-2010 05:23 PM

I have volunteered at a theraputic riding center for the last three years and love it! Its hard to get used too, seeing the people with disabilities ride, but you get used to it. I am primarily a side walker and I really enjoy it! You have to try every role and see which you like best. The side walkers get a ton of interaction with the patients, you can talk to them and play games :) so much fun

TheRoughrider21 07-10-2010 06:10 PM

That's great you've been doing it so long! I'll probably try all the positions but I talked to the director and one of the instructors(one of my mom's friends) and they said that having someone who's willing to do all of the chores(which I'm glad to do)will be great. =) Thanks for your advice!

Carleen 07-10-2010 06:17 PM

I used to do it and let me tell you, it was absolutely amazing. I loved it. Of course, the main focus isn't on horses but having horsey experience will give you opportunities to work in the barn when there are no lessons, or a lesson is cancelled.

I am sure that every place is a bit different, and I guarantee they'll be sure you know their routines and what they expect out of their volunteers. I often sidewalked, lead the horse during lessons, played games with the kids and as I mention, if lessons were cancelled I would help out in the barn.

It's a very, very rewarding experience. I look back on the time I spent there as one of the best times of my life so far.

Skipsfirstspike 07-11-2010 12:55 AM

I did it for a few years and it was very rewarding. The people who ran the place were very nice, and never would ask you to do something you weren't comfortable with. But you might surprise yourself at what you can do when you open your heart to these special people and horses. The joy and confidence on a young person's face, because they are doing something that many able bodied people will never get to do-- they are horse riders! I remember in particular one little boy, about 5 yrs old, who had an attention span of about 2 minutes. He could not focus, would figit and vocalise.. but put him on the horse, and he remained in control and attentive for the whole half hour.
Do it, you will be part of something amazing.

TheRoughrider21 07-11-2010 08:55 AM

Yesterday they had a lil show, just some local horse owners bringing different breeds in to show them off and people could walk around and see the horses. This man was talkin to me, must of been in his 50's. He was telling me about his mules that he could and how he was looking for a new horse and how Harley-Davidson people helped build thre new indoor arena. He was a lil hard to understand but he was so happy that it made my heart happy. =)

Eolith 07-11-2010 11:51 AM

I volunteered for a therapeutic riding program for a while. It is very rewarding and the horses are amazing, but after about four years I became a little frustrated with how hard the horses were working and how they were being treated by some of the riders who did not understand how to ride in a manner beneficial to the horse.

Naturally the people there did everything they could to ensure the comfort of the horses, but the horses would usually get sort of "burnt out" after a year or two. It's amazing how much horses thrive on having one person be "their" person too. Part of what was so difficult for these horses was having so many different people handling them and different riders on them from a week to week basis. Many of them did much better when they were able to bond with one person who provided their care and rode them regularly... but the therapeutic program just can't be structured like that.

Skipsfirstspike 07-11-2010 01:41 PM

^ The same is expected of school horses and dude ranch horses. It takes an exceptional horse to be fit for therapeutic riding. These horses have to be as quiet and patient as possible, and have to like people and children. It is not a strenuous job for them. It would be much harder IMO to be a school or dude horse, because they are the ones who are getting different riders pulling and kicking at them. Therapeutic horses are for the most part led while someone is on their back. Fastest gait is a slow jog. So the work is easy, but if they lack the patience to stand then they are not the right horse. A lot of the horses there were older horses donated because their riders needed mounts with more stamina. They were all sweethearts, or they didn't stay. We used to test the new horses by one of us riding while being led. The rider would flop their legs around and shout, others would be kicking a ball around and under horse, jumping, tossing beanbags, etc. The ones who remained nonchalant were chosen to be therapeutic horses.

TheRoughrider21 07-11-2010 10:44 PM

Thank you for all your input! I'll be going there Wedensday's at 5pm and 6:15pm until mid-August and then there's a break and I think I'll be going tuesday's at 5:15 form September22nd-mid october I think. =)

Eolith 07-12-2010 10:34 AM

Horses at the dude ranches (at least ones that I've been to) frequently have a great deal more turn out and are "rotated" through work a bit more. I agree that some lesson horses suffer the same circumstances, but at least at the location I was volunteering, most of these horses were expected to do more than just be led around. There were several off-the-lead lessons or ones where the leader was really only supposed to be an anchor in case the horse acted up... not actually a leader. There were a few riders that would just haul on those reins and bang bang bang with their legs, which always made me wince. And of course considering their circumstances you can't really get after them for it as much as you might an average kid taking lessons. They don't understand the subtleties of using gentle aids that gradually become stronger as needed... nor to they understand the use of their seat.

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