The center I work for is not PATH accredited, nor am I. To me that certificate says "I can remember to close a gate and I can ride w/t/c without difficultly". I'm not a huge fan PATH... some of their rules don't rub me the right way. The biggest one is that lessons are taught in groups. If I were a parent I wouldn't want some 16 year old teaching my child while an instructor barks in the middle of the ring.
If I were you I would look at:
1) The instructors history and their history of persons with disabilities. How long have they been working? Any accomplishments?
2) Ask for a tour. Look at the facility. Is it accessible and safe for your child? Are there any future plans to make it accessible?
3) Ask about volunteering. What are the requirements? We only accept 16 and up. Obviously if they have no experience they certainly aren't leading a horse around. Nor would I want a 13 year old leading my child on a horse.
4) check out the horses. Do they go through special training? What's the requirements for the to be used in the program? Age? Past jobs? Are they in good condition?
If you REALLY want to infiltrate the place I would ask to volunteer, even just once a week. People talk. You might never know if they are tranquilizing the horse or if the person leading the horse is only 13. Or that Mary the instructor's kids never progress further then steering left and right and her lessons are repetitive.
If you have any other questions feel free to ask! I teach therapeutic riding and manage the barn. I've been around the block, so to speak. Lol
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I agree with everything you've said as far as what to look for in a therapeutic center, PATH or not! As far as your opinion on PATH, I can appreciate and understand that it is not for everyone, however, I know for a fact that they do not require
all riders be in group lessons- only 60% of my riders are in group lessons, the rest are one on one with me.
I am not wanting to turn this into a non-PATH vs. PATH debate, it accomplishes nothing :) I don't think anyone will argue though that to work with children and adults with physical, emotional, and cognitive disabilities, special training is required. Whether that is regulated or not
, it is necessary. If you have the means to learn it on your own and collaborate with other people and can successfully keep volunteers, horses, and participants safe while creating a successful lesson- great! I am not trying to take away from that, and it sounds like you have excellent experience and know what you're doing :) In my eyes, this constitutes a good center. For people that are new to therapeutic riding, and don't have a safe established center to work with, I think PATH provides a good outline as to how to conduct a safe, fun lesson. That being said, for a person to be able to teach riding, they should have some
basic riding skills- do they need to be able to do a high level dressage test to be able to teach therapeutic riding? I don't think so! But, they should have some understanding of how to ride if they are going to be able to teach- so the riding test does make sense to me. It shouldn't be the end all be all of becoming an instructor, but I do think it is important.
One more thing regarding PATH, that I do appreciate, the standards. Though long, somewhat tedious, and sometimes frustrating, it is important to remember why
they are there- to protect
volunteers, participants, and horses. No matter our affiliation, none of us ever wants harm those we work with. One such standard that is very
important, regarding atlanto-axial instability in riders with Down's syndrome. If a rider has a positive x-ray for this, horseback riding can actually do them harm
. If a bad jolt were to happen, they can actually sever their spinal cord pretty easily because they lack head control :/ The riders that have a negative xray are cleared to ride with us. I believe that for this type of work, there should be an organization that works to try and find best practices, if just to try and prevent accidents. Do accidents happen at all centers, regardless of PATH or non PATH status? YES! They are horses, stuff happens. Are you going to prevent all accidents by using a PATH center? No way!! That would be completely ignorant and stupid to say that they are the end all be all of therapeutic riding. However, if you aren't near a good center like SlideStop is at, or are having trouble evaluating a program and had no advice from anyone, I would be more likely to go with a center that follows some regulations than one that follows none. AGAIN,
the program as a whole is more important that the affiliation on the front door of the place, but in the end not all centers are created equal. Look at the whole program, also ask if they have Physical Therapists available to assess riders (having people that know how the human body works is HUGE- with some disabilities certain horses/techniques/manipulating can do HARM; our PT is a valuable member of our team and gives great insight) For a long time I've thought that there should be another governing body in the therapeutic riding world, what do you think SlideStop?