|Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Day 4|
|Opening Circle/ground rules||Opening Circle/ground rules||Opening Circle/ground rules||Opening Circle/ground rules|
|Forms, Releases and pre-test||meditation and intention-setting||Meditation and Intention-setting||Meditation and Intention-setting|
|Introductions||Sensory Walk||Sensory Walk||Sensory Walk|
|Meditation and Intention-setting||Over the fence – herd in paddock||Over the fence – pairs approach||Over the fence – teams with a plan|
|Sensory walk||Grooming||Grooming +picking up hoof and/or leading||At liberty – leading without a lead rope|
|Over the fence – stalls (2 rounds)||Leading||At liberty/ Haltering, positioning||Choosing a horse, Leading, Haltering obstacle course|
|Closing Circle||Closing Circle||Closing circle||Closing circle|
The many activities on this agenda are not the main event. Sensory awareness and connection with horses is the key. It doesn’t matter whether participants successfully groom the horse from nose to tail. It doesn’t matter whether they successfully pet a horse in an over-the-fence activity.
Helping participants to notice and be courteous about the horse’s reaction to the participant’s own approaches is at the core of every activity. This is called deliberate practice and it’s how the brain rewires itself. Noticing the difference between what we want to do and what we are actually doing is what every brain excels at. It’s how we learn and how the brain establishes new circuitry. When you as a facilitator push to complete an activity with a focus on getting it done rather than on noticing this discrepancy, you miss the opportunity to help the brain. Even a brain that is damaged by dementia responds to this process approach.
A brain needs stimulation to respond and to heal. Stimulation comes through the five senses, light, movement, and thought. It comes from feeling the horse’s coat during grooming, experiencing the five senses during the sensory walk, and walking out during leading.
Another kind of stimulation for the brain is the struggle to accomplish something new. This requires a participant to notice the difference between what is being asked (“halter this horse”) and what they are doing.
Here are the ways the brain is stimulated during our activities:
Learning the skill of haltering a horse takes time for anyone to process, but especially someone whose brain is noisy. Slowing down is crucial.
If you facilitate these tasks with a sense of urgency or anxiety, you are adding to the anxiety that care partners and people living with dementia feel in the rest of their life. Anxiety and fear can lead participants to the primal fight-or-flight response instead of staying in the moment and experiencing their impact on the moment.
To avoid speeding up while facilitating,