Incorporating Life Goals Into Riding Lessons

This post is about intentionally using riding skills to target your riders’ life goals. This concept was introduced to me by the evaluator Sandy Webster at the Advanced Workshop I attended at Heartland Therapeutic Riding. It is perhaps the most impactful concept I learned from the week, as it has changed my perspective on instructing for therapeutic riding and given me direction for improving my lessons and their benefits. This may be long but it’s totally worth the read.

Disclaimer: Keep in this is based on a lecture given by Ms. Webster and I am extremely grateful to her for agreeing to let me share the material I learned at the Workshop with all of you. That said, these are from my notes, and probably not a perfect representation of her material, but I hope it gets the point across and is helpful!

Incorporating Life Goals Into Riding Lessons

First let’s review – as I said in the post “The Next Step: Advanced Instructor Certification“:

  • Registered Level Certification was only meant to be a stepping stone. As a PATH Intl Registered Level Insructor, you are getting comfortable with the basics: the lesson plan components, teaching the what’s how’s and why’s of riding skills, arena management, safety measures, teaching techniques, giving feedback, and using the natural benefits of the horse and environment for your riders.
  • Advanced Level Certificationtakes it to the next step. Now that you are comfortable with all the above, you start to specifically pick lesson aspects (skills, movement, volunteers, environment, etc.) to improve and enhance daily life functions, meet Life Goals, and change lives on purpose – so they can go home and replicate riding skills to use in everyday life.

The Steps

The following steps help you determine what Riding Skills to use to reach Life Goals.

  1. Consider the rider’s Life Goals.
  2. Break down the components or skills needed to reach the Life Goals. Ask “What skills are needed to…”
  3. Choose Riding Skills that have similar components and therapeutic value toward the Life Goals.
  4. Create Riding Goals and a Lesson Plan that intentionally incorporate all factors (arena setup, environment, volunteers, tack, etc.).

The Components

The following breaks down the components of each step.

  1. Break down the components or skills needed to reach the Life Goals. Ask “What skills are needed to…”
    • Examples
      • Life Goal: Hygeine –> Components: brush teeth, bathe, wash hands, brush hair, etc.
      • Life Goal: Feed self –> Components: use utensils, etiquette, use napkin, hold cup, know right/left, use hands independently, etc.
      • Life Goal: Read –> Components: focus, sequence, follow directions, processing, sit quietly, problem solving, memory, critical thinking, decision making, etc.
  2. Consider the rider’s Life Goals.
    • Life Goals = Long or short term achievable life skills that come from the rider or parent.
    • determined by using rider paperwork, parent goals, rider’s IEP, rider’s intake assessment, and communication with teachers and therapists
    • Examples
      • Tie shoelaces
      • Count 1-20
      • Develop relationships
      • Get dressed
  3. Choose Riding Skills that have similar components and therapeutic value toward the Life Goals.
    • riding skill = the purposeful intention of using aids (hand, seat, voice, leg, weight) to communicate with the horse directly. We say “intention” because not all riders may actually be able to communicate their intention to the horse effectively, but the rider’s intention is there. For example, the aid for “walk on” could be leg aids (which is effective because the horse feels it) or making the sign for “walk on” (which is not effective because the horse won’t respond unless the leader supports the rider, however the rider’s intention is still there). Note a riding skill is not the aid itself, or riding through figures, although it usually involves the application of aids.
    • Examples
      • Walk halt walk transitions (using various aids)
      • Walk trot walk transitions (using various aids)
      • Leg yield (using leg aids)
      • Two point (allows to get off back, even though doesn’t use aids)
      • Bending
      • Lengthen/Shorten stride
      • Direct/Neck/Open Rein
      • Turn on forehand/haunches, pivot
      • Posting (skill that helps horse balance)
      • Posting on correct diagonal
      • Canter transitions
      • Lengthen/Shorten reins
      • Collection/Extension
      • Connection/On the bit
  4. Create Riding Goals and a Lesson Plan that intentionally incorporate all factors (arena setup, environment, volunteers, tack, etc.)
    • Riding Goals = Long or short term general riding goals (ex: ride in the Special Olympics)
    • Lesson Objectives = What riding skill the instructor expects the riders to achieve in that lesson based on common goals, ages, and abilities
      • are clear and specific, linked to measurable outcomes so you can write clear progress notes
      • include an action: demonstrate, perform, attempt, execute, maintain
      • include a measurement: distance, amount of time, number of times, percentage
      • example: MJ will demonstrate posting trot down the long side of the arena 2x in each direction, assistance as needed.
    • Lesson Plan = How your rider will achieve the Objective
    • Plan – remember to keep using rider paperwork, parent goals, rider’s IEP, rider’s intake assessment, and communication with teachers and therapists to intentionally plan your lessons

Examples

Rider 1

  1. Life Goal: Ride a bike
  2. Components: What skills are needed to ride a bike…
    • Core strength
    • Balance
    • Leg strength
    • Weight shifting
    • Weight bearing on one leg
    • Range of motion
    • Wearing a helmet
    • Spatial awareness
    • Eye tracking
    • Knowing right from left
    • Ability to read traffic signs and signals
  3. Riding Skills with similar components
    • Direct Rein Steering
      • Intentionally picked Direct Rein Steering, since Neck Reining which would use less core strength and Open Reining would make a bike tip over
    • Benefits of Direct Rein Steering toward Life Goal (aka why choose this skill)
      • Core strength
      • Balance, teaches no leaning
      • Independent use of rein aids encourages core strength
      • Weight changes, by looking through turn and weighting inside seat bone and stirrup
      • Hand use
      • Hand placement
      • Use of left and right hands
      • Coordination of both hands, needed for using handlebards
      • Contact with reins is similar to contact with handlebars
      • Turn torso, like when turn bike
      • Back to neutral when finish turn, like with a bike
      • Spatial awareness when riding in groups, like when riding a bike in a group
    • Or teach 2 point
      • Works on leg strength for cycling bike pedals
  4. Riding Goals and a Lesson Plan that intentionally incorporate all factors

Rider 2

  1. Life Goal: Learn to tie shoes so s/he can dress himself
  2. Components: What skills are needed to tie shoes…
    • Core strength
    • Balance
    • Eye tracking
    • Knowing right from left
    • Eye hand coordination
    • Fine motor planning
    • Independent use of hands
  3. Riding Skills with similar components
    • Direct Rein Steering
    • Benefits of Direct Rein Steering toward Life Goal (aka why choose this skill)
      • Core strength
      • Independent use of rein aids encourages core strength and independent use of hands
      • Knowing Right and Left
      • Using one hand at a time
      • Coordinating both hands
      • Contact with reins is similar to contact with shoelaces
      • Etc.
  4. Riding Goals and a Lesson Plan that intentionally incorporate all factors:
    • (This is an example of what Sandy did with some of her riders)
    • Before lesson, put red tape on the right rein and blue tape on the left rein; also modify reins so extend into shoelaces
    • Before lesson everyone takes shoes off and puts boots on – practicing untying and tying shoelaces
    • At beginning of lesson rider ties together modified reins like shoelaces – each week add an element of the bow: 1) knot, 2) rabbit ears, and so on…
    • During the lesson use “right” and “left” using red tape and blue tape as visual cue
    • At the end of the lesson untie shoelace reins
    • After lesson take boots off and tie shoes back on

Rider 3

    1. Life Goal: Speak in conversation
    2. Components: What skills are needed to speak in conversation…
      • Manners
      • Sharing
      • Patience
      • Eye contact
      • Good Behavior
    3. Riding Skills with similar components
      • Walk/Halt/Walk
      • Benefits of this skill toward Life Goal: Can incorporate other factors such as volunteers and arena set up
    4. Riding Goals and a Lesson Plan that intentionally incorporate all factors:
      • Skill practice activity involves walking to cone and halting to say “hello” to the volunteer at the cone

More examples of Life Goals and related beneficial Riding Skills:

  • Life Goal: Use a wheelchair steering toggle
  • Riding Skill: Neck rein (because one handed like steering toggle)
  • Life Goal: Oblique stability
  • Riding skill: Walk/halt/walk on horse with anterior/posterior movement
  • Life Goal: Open door and hand out pamphlets as church usher
  • Riding Skill: Open rein (because requires stability to bring hand out, possibly include leaning, to use open rein, much like opening a door or handing out a pamphlet)
  • Life Goal: Learn the value of money
  • Riding skill: Walk/halt/walk to collect money in the arena to use to buy their horse a gift

I hope that all makes sense! I thought is was so inspiring because after all my focusing on riding skills, it taught me how to get to the reason we instruct therapeutic riding – to purposefully change lives!

Enjoy!

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Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgment!

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