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Volunteer Tips

Volunteers are the reason many adaptive riding centers exist.  Volunteers are important to our mission and service delivery.  Thank you to all the people who volunteer!  Here are some tips that we have shared with our volunteers about our riders in the therapeutic riding program:

  • Understand that the center may ask you to do things differently then you do with your own horses.  Horses that work in these programs often deal with many people each day.  Centers set up policies to ensure consistent handling of the horses.  If you have a question about horse handling ask the instructor or barn manager.
  • Pay close attention to the training provided and ask questions if you do not understand something.  We're always happy to answer a question.
  • If you are not a person with horse experience, learn by observation and asking questions.  You will not be assigned to lead a horse right away, but with time and experience you can gain horse skills.  If you want to learn to ride I would urge you to find a barn to take lessons at.  Many centers are filled with riders with special needs and many have waiting lists.  Having a beginner volunteer ride is a time a rider with special needs cannot ride.  There are some programs that teach both adaptive riding and beginner lessons, if that's the case at your program you can volunteer for the adaptive riding program and take lessons!
  • Ask the instructor if there is anything you should know about a student prior to working with them if there isn't a written bio.  Remember, the instructor should not disclose the disability of the rider to you.  They should provide you with information about what the rider can and cannot do and what the goals may be.  Example: You are going to be working with Jenny today.  She is able to neck rein her horse and does not use her left hand.  She takes a little longer to understand directions, so you may need to repeat what I say to her.  Her goal is to trot a barrel pattern.
  • When the instructor is teaching try to minimize talking.  If the rider wants to talk with you, redirect them and ask "what did your teacher say?"
  • Do not teach the rider yourself.  PATHI certified therapeutic riding instructors have taken a weekend certification course and taught supervised hours.  They are also aware of the riders medical considerations.  Although you may have been taught riding is always heels down, if you try to teach that to a rider wearing an orthotic you could cause damage to their ankle.  If you are interested in becoming a PATHI certified therapeutic riding instructor check here.
  • Have fun.  Volunteers is often about making friends with other volunteers, the center staff and the riders.  Many long lasting friendships have been formed through volunteering.  Start today, find a local PATHI center and volunteer.

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