Tales From The Trails
The Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center hosted an instructor training certification April 5-8, sanctioned by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH).
The equine-assisted activities industry is growing, and the need for qualified instructors is expanding along with it. PATH is the credentialing organization for accrediting centers and certifying instructors and equine specialists.
Six candidates and one auditor from across the country attended the training. They were tested on their knowledge of working alongside individuals with varying disabilities, while understanding the mechanics and influence that a horse’s movement has on building core strength and balance. They had to demonstrate the skills needed to teach those with intellectual and physical challenges, build lesson plans, meet riders’ goals and objectives, and analyze horses’ suitability for use in a program. A large emphasis was placed on safety and best practices for both riders and horses.
Vinceremos Director of Development Susan Guinan said the workshop was a huge success.
“The first three days involved detailed workshops, and on the fourth day, the candidates demonstrated their personal riding skills and also taught a lesson,” she explained. “For the riding test, they had a horse chosen for them to fit their size and discipline, either English, western or dressage. The test included tacking up and riding a pattern. For the class, they drew names of two students out of a hat, and wrote a lesson plan including measurable goals, objectives and performance criteria, taking into account the clients’ skills and capabilities. The students, regular Vinceremos clients, were proud to take part and show off their skills.”
Susan explained that, along with all the physical and social benefits, therapeutic riding is a good fit for Vinceremos clients because of its regimentation.
“You always do things in the same order. Curry, then brush, then pick out hooves, put on the saddle, then the bridle. Walk, trot, canter. Reverse and do the same. The routines of riding are dependable and calming,” she said. “In the same way, an instructor’s lesson plan should flow in a way which supports this continuity. Directions must be clear, concise and consistent, and given in a way the client understands. For example, telling someone to ride across the diagonal may not make sense. However, the rider can understand, ‘Ride from the blue cone to the red one.’ In the same way, the rider has to learn to communicate clearly with the horse.”
Susan was thrilled that all six candidates passed and received their Therapeutic Riding Instructor certifications. The days were long, but it was definitely worth it.
“We were glad to host this event and participate in something we feel strongly about and which helps so many communities,” she said. “It’s a way for Vinceremos to introduce talent to the field and an opportunity for us to guarantee that our staff updates their skills and uses all best practices.”
Rachel Braverman was one of the successful candidates. The volunteer coordinator at Vinceremos, Rachel was thrilled to be able to participate.
“Getting certified is an integral part of being on this team and serving our clients,” she said. “I’m really passionate about working here and training volunteers, and this was a huge piece toward understanding all parts of my job. The training was more than what I expected. I’d audited the training before, but taking part in it was different. It became personal and real. I liked being part of the group, meeting people from other centers and learning about their experiences and perspectives. Collaborating with them was fun. I enjoyed learning different techniques.”
She particularly enjoyed the riding test. “By understanding what I can do, knowing my weaknesses and strengths, I can better understand how to relate to and teach others,” Rachel said. “It’s really useful to recognize which areas need improvement and knowing which tools to use and how to use them. One of the key points is that you’re always learning, always evolving professionally, pushing the boundaries to better yourself so as to better serve your clients.”
Both Rachel and Susan encourage anyone who’s interested in getting involved to come out and volunteer.
“You don’t need any horse experience,” Susan said. “I love the diversity of ages — people from 13 to 70. It’s not unusual to see them sitting together on the patio, teenagers helping older folks figure out how to use their phones, and older folks telling stories of what the world was like when they were young. Volunteering here, you gain more than you give.”
Vinceremos has been serving people of all ages with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities in Palm Beach County since 1982. It offers equine-assisted activities, including therapeutic riding and carriage driving, hippotherapy and equine-assisted learning. The nonprofit serves about 120 clients weekly. For more information about Vinceremos, call (561) 792-9900 or visit www.vinceremos.org.
PATH was formed in 1969 as the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association to promote equine-assisted activities and therapies for individuals with special needs. With more than 4,800 certified instructors and equine specialists and 877 member centers, more than 8.000 PATH International members around the globe help more than 62,000 children and adults, including more than 5,500 veterans and active-duty military personnel, with physical, cognitive and emotional challenges find strength and independence through the power of the horse each year.
Vinceremos will host two more certification workshops later this year: Interactive Vaulting Certification Sept. 1-4, and another Therapeutic Riding Instructor Certification Sept. 7-10.
For more information about PATH, call (800) 369-RIDE or visit www.pathintl.org.