Tools or jewels? In the equine therapy world there is often a discussion to be found concerning the role of the equine. Are they just a tool in a therapeutic session, submitting to however the lesson plan directs, having to tolerate inexperienced riders? Or is the student to submit to the leading of the horses action, allowing the horse to determine the length of the lesson if it’s bored, annoyed, or just prefers to be back in the pasture, not in the arena. Is the priority the equine or the student? If a small student with sensory procipiation has a lot of movement while on horseback, would it be best to work towards a goal that strengthens their core muscles and arrange a lesson addressing their sensory needs, or do we attempt to stifle that extra movement and require compliance to stress the privilege of being on the horses back? NARHA, North American Riding for The Handicap, newly renamed Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International is the governing body for Prospect Riding Center, our therapeutic and recreational directed riding facility. The organization was founded in 1969 as the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) to promote safe and effective therapeutic horseback riding throughout the United States and Canada. Today, PATH Intl. has nearly 800 member centers and over 6,300 individual members in countries all over the world, who help and support more than 42,000 men, women and children with special needs each year through a variety of equine-assisted activity and therapy programs. We comply with their standards, and guidelines, which include but are not limited to; selection and screening process for prospective equines for the program, training, conditioning and limiting the maximum workday for an equine working session. Keeping check of the physical, mental and emotional soundness of each equine, being consistent with industry standards of quality, humane treatment with mutual respect, patience and awareness of the equine reactions. Measuring the care of the horses may seem subjective at times. You can hear varied opinions if you ask the question as to whether horses are livestock. Our ranch agriculture status is due to the cow calf operation, not the horses. Some folks are offended if horses are categorized as livestock. Our ranch livestock includes Indian Running ducks, Leghorn and Rhode Island Red chickens, Angus and Brangus cows and calves, and Samson the Angus bull which are all as well cared for as our horses. Fresh water, good quality forage, feed, supplements, medical care, and all free roam among the pastures. The cowboys that help with the cows here at the ranch chuckle when I hand feed treats to the
while they are in the head Shute. I’m “baby-ing” them, after all they are livestock cows for production. We are thankful our herds and flocks are ‘easy keepers’ and fairly low maintenance. We treat them as our jewels, not as tools to be used, but as a life to be shared. There are life lessons learned with nearly each interaction. These life lessons are brought alive in the presence of a student. There is a balance between the horses innate freedom and training. Some horses have more of a desire to work with people, some prefer children, some prefer a certain gender. It is our goal to match that horse with their student, considering size, temperament and experience. I enjoy therapeutic equine activities and often relate the experience to what is going on in my own human relationships. So I ask myself, am I keeping check of the physical, mental and emotional soundness of those I influence, being consistent with mutual respect, patience and awareness of the their reactions? How are you living up to this standard?