Working around large animals can evoke many emotions. Fear is one of them! The Connected Horse Workshop strives to make emotional and physical safety a priority for people and animals. Participants who are beginning the journey of dementia or caregiving need to feel safe in order to let down their guard and open up to one another in a new setting. Horses need to feel safe in order to fully participate. Staff and volunteers also need to feel safe.
Before any workshop, the Connected Horse Program assesses interested barns for safety and conducts an assessment on a horse identified for the program. The selected horses are screened and identified by their willingness to be in the program. Each horse’s behavior and temperament are thoroughly screened to confirm their appropriateness and willingness to participate in the program.
Each interested participant is also screened to make sure that they can safely participate in the workshop.
The workshop day begins with an orientation and provides participants with safety reminders and demonstrations before each activity with the horses. Over-the-fence activities introduce participants to the horses slowly and safely, until safety awareness is achieved.
Horse handlers focus on horse behaviors and participant safety around the horse and are always on alert for potential problems.
Let’s look at these areas closely.
The horses who participate in Connected Horse workshops are capable of being present for the participants and interacting with them safely. They are willing participants with the maturity and self-control to choose their responses. It doesn’t mean they are compliant horses, whose focus is on doing what is expected of them. Instead they are horses who will respond to participants and look to handlers and facilitators for guidance. The Connected Horse program wants all horses participating in the program to be willing participants. Observing the selected Horse’s interaction prior to starting every workshop. Observing the horses interaction prior to every workshop, will help to determine whether the horse is ready to participate that day. Since we all have ” off days” we must also honor this situation in our partner the horse. Being aware of the horses behavior will help us make good decisions. use the following guidelines to help decide on the horse.
In general, for direct activities (i.e. grooming, leading, haltering) look for horses that are:
In general, but not always, horses used for beginning riders, therapeutic riding horses or retired lesson horses are often good for this type of work.
Horses also need to:
The presence of one or more of the below characteristics indicates a horse may not able to be part of the direct activity portion of the workshops:
A horse that doesn’t meet the requirements for this work is not a “bad” horse or unfit for any therapeutic work. It means that the horse would be unhappy doing this kind of work and could put the participants in unsafe situations. We always want to include horses that can be present with participants and also provide a safe experience.
The environment of the barn is an important part of helping people with dementia and their care partners experience a sense of wellbeing from being outside in nature and among horses. The ideal environment for a Connected Horse Equine-Assisted Workshop includes:
Facilitators who work in barns operated by another should complete some due diligence to ensure safety at the site and make sure that horse welfare standards are in place. The barn should be conducive to providing a safe and healthy experience for participants and horses. Connected Horse strives to strengthen the special relationship between horses and humans.
You will learn more about this subject in Phase 2 of your online training.
Connected Horse workshops are designed for people with a diagnosis of early-stage dementia or mild cognitive impairment (MCI) who participate with their primary care partners (family member, friend or professional). All participants must be ambulatory (no walkers or wheelchairs) and with stable medical health.
Physical fraility or cognitive functioning that has progressed beyond the early stages are the two most common reasons we cannot accept a participant.
Safety is always our first concern.
In Phase 2 you will encounter tools for screening participants by phone before Orientation Day and a tool for assessing their ability to participate during Orientation Day. In general, people living with dementia and their care partners who participate must: