Horse selection can make or break your program!
Throughout my career, I have found that the horses in the programs I have worked with were a make or break aspect of how successful and helpful a program could be. Riding programs needed school master horses that accepted riders with disabilities and therapists needed horses with medical quality movement that help their clients achieve their therapy goals. I went through a lot of different methods of screening horses, having them on trial and training them for work in the disciplines of adaptive riding or hippotherapy. The more I was able to refine this process, the better the outcomes and the happier the horses were.
What did I find that worked? There are three things that worked well for me:
- A phone screening that any staff person could use that would screen out horses that were not a good fit for our program. You can have a list of parameters of what “type” of horse or pony you are currently looking for and then compare the phone screening against your “want list”. This phone screening should ask demographics, health and soundness questions.
- A farm screening: a structured plan for visiting horses at the farm. This should fit the goals of your program and should be able to be used quickly at a farm site. This can give you objective items to discuss with the horse owner before leaving the farm. You may not have a final decision after using this form, but you will have structured notes to review when you are back at the barn.
- A trial screening and training protocol! This is the last step that makes all the difference. What needs to be done with the horse or pony when they come to your facility on trial and who will be doing the work with the horse. This protocol includes testing and training.
At the end of these three steps, the quality and usefulness of the horses always improved for me. This was a great progress for improving herd quality and creating a healthy, happy and working herd.