About PATH Intl.

Finding Equine Gems

Rachel Royston, PATH Intl. Equine Welfare Committee Member

Welfare of our equine partners is one of the biggest responsibilities that we as PATH Intl. professionals carry. We need to find the horses who WANT and LOVE the work that we do so they thrive and avoid burnout. In order to find these equine gems, it takes time.

  • Have a firm understanding of the requirements of your center for your herd in writing.
  • Have a comprehensive form for the donor to fill out on health, vices, training, etc...HAVE A TEAM! Staff & volunteers who are knowledgeable horsemen need to work together to review this form.
  • HAVE A TEAM Visit the horse at their own home, where they are comfortable. Watch the owner catch, groom, tack and ride the horse before beginning your own testing. THEN play with props, ride...do everything you would do in a class. Watch for very subtle cues from the horse. A horse’s curiosity and interest is key.
  • Once the horse is at our barn, only staff and feed team members handle the horse for the first 30 days to set clear expectations for the horse. Do mock lessons and desensitize. At the end of 30 days, vote to see if he stays or if he needs to go home.
  • The 2nd 30 days the horse gets to take part in lessons with our clients, one lesson per day. We are careful of who we have handle, ride and sidewalk. For the first two weeks we set this horse up for success and success only. Then we allow more challenges in people and energy. Day 60: Vote again.
  • The 3rd 30 days, the horse gets to participate in two lessons per day and we are not picky about handlers/sidewalkers/riders so that he can have different experiences in a safe environment under a careful eye. Observing how he reacts can tell us a lot about whether he is being “a good boy” or if he really likes this job. That is what the 3rd month is about.

Given the opportunity, we would allow more time than 3 months, but this has worked well for us.

After the horse has been accepted into the program, his care has just begun. EVERY volunteer is trained to lead, groom and tack each horse the EXACT same way so that there is as much consistency as possible for the horses. Orientation at Turning Point includes setting the expectation that almost all things are handled IN THE MOMENT for the sake of the horses and riders. This avoids hurt feelings and bruised pride most of the time.

Our Schooling Team members are evaluated on the same rubric that our instructors are graded on in order to be a part of the team. They sign a contract regarding expectations of this position.

Our SideKicks, volunteers who spend unmounted time with our horses, provide relaxing, stress free time with a human. They also sign a contract with expectations.

Consistency and known expectations are key to a happy, healthy herd from BEFORE Day 1.

Rachel Royston
Executive Director of Turning Point Ranch Therapeutic Riding Center
PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor, Mentor, ESMHL

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