Last Update: September 28, 2009
Sign in/out Sheet (Observation/Training day, Director’s signature)
What is Therapeutic Riding?
What is NARHA?
Types of Volunteers
Contact and Emergency Information
Ways to be an Effective Volunteer
Understanding Your Horse
Parts of the Horse
Parts of the Tack
Common Disabilities Served
Hands On Training
Catching the Horses
Common Volunteer Mistakes
Sign up for current sessions
Home Phone ________________________________Work Phone _____________________
Notify in Case of Emergency ______________________________Phone____________
Please answer the following questions: (circle)
1. Do you have physical limitations: Yes No
If yes, please specify.
2. Can you walk for 30 minutes and jog for short distances? Yes No
3. Given the chance to change sides frequently, can you hold your arms above shoulder
height and support a modest weight? Yes No
4. Are you comfortable working or walking around horses? Yes No
5. Do you have experience working with horses? Yes No
If yes, please specify.
6. Do you have experience working with disabled people? Yes No
If yes, please specify.
7. Please check the area(s) you are most interested in.
______Side walker/Horse Leader
______Office Assistance, i.e., telephone work, typing, filing, etc.
______Publicity, i.e., writing articles, contacting organizations, etc.
______Maintenance of facility (cleaning stalls, etc.) and equipment
8. Please list 3 references, with address and phone number.
9. Please list the days and times you want to volunteer:
Volunteer’s Name ________________________Phone________________________
IN THE EVENT EMERGENCY MEDICAL AID/TREATMENT IS REQUIRED DUE TO
ILLNESS OR INJURY DURING THE PROCESS OF VOLUNTEER SERVICES OR WHILE
BEING ON THE PROPERTY OF THE AGENCY, I AUTHORIZE TRAK TO:
1. Secure and retain medical treatment and transportation, if needed.
2. Release medical information to authorized individual or agency involved in the
medical emergency treatment.
Preferred Medical Facility ____________________________________________
Health Insurance Co. __________________________________________________
This authorization includes X-rays, surgery, hospitalization, medication and any treatment
procedure deemed “lifesaving” by the attending physician/medical personnel.
Date________________ Consent Signature____________________________________
Parent’s Signature (if under 18)__________________________________________
I DO NOT GIVE MY CONSENT FOR EMERGENCY MEDICAL TREATMENT/AID IN THE
CASE OF ILLNESS OR INJURY DURING THE PROCESS OF VOLUNTEERING OR WHILE
BEING ON THE PROPERTY OF THE AGENCY. IN THE EVENT EMERGENCY
TREATMENT/AID IS REQUIRED, I WISH THE FOLLOWING PROCEDURES TO TAKE
Date ______________Non-Consent Signature___________________________
THERAPEUTIC RIDING ACADEMY OF KNOXVILLE /
PARENT-CHILD SERVICES GROUP, INC.*
I , __________________________ (name), have the right to sign my release, or will have my
parent/guardian sign for me _______________________________ (parent/guardian name).
I represent that I am volunteering with Therapeutic Riding Academy of Knoxville (TRAK)/Parent-Child
Services Group, Inc.* Program to be conducted at the Therapeutic Riding Academy of Knoxville location. I
understand that I/my child will be participating in sessions involving horses.
______I hereby certify that I/my child does not have any known allergies to animals, and I hereby authorize
my child to participate fully in these sessions with horses.
______I do not fully authorize my child/myself to participate fully in these sessions with horses. Please list
(Restrictions may prohibit participation in the Therapeutic Riding Program.)
In the event that emergency medical aid or treatment is required due to illness or injury during my/my
child’s participation in the Therapeutic Riding Program, I hereby grant Therapeutic Riding Academy of
Knoxville, Sport Horse Center, or Parent-Child Services Group, Inc.*, their officers, employees, and agents
permission to secure and retain medical treatment and transportation, if needed, and to release my child’s
records upon request to the authorized individual or agency involved in the medical emergency treatment. I
agree to assume the financial responsibility for any medical treatment obtained for my child.
For reference, my child’s primary care physician is: ______________________
I hereby covenant and agree, on behalf of myself and my heirs, assigns and representatives, that
Therapeutic Riding Academy of Knoxville, Sport Horse Center, Parent-Child Services Group, Inc.*, The Butler
Family, their officers, employees, and agents (“the Released parties”) shall not be liable for any damages
including, without limitation, compensatory damages, punitive and exemplary damages, personal injury or
death, and pain and suffering and damage to property which may in any way result from or arise out of my or
my child’s participation in the Therapeutic Riding Program. I hereby fully and forever release, discharge,
covenant not to sue, and indemnify the Released Parties for any and all claims, demands, damages, rights of
action or causes of action, present or future, whether the same be known or unknown, anticipated or
unanticipated, resulting from or arising out of my/my child’s participation in the Therapeutic Riding Program
I hereby authorize Therapeutic Riding Academy of Knoxville/Parent-Child Services Group, Inc.* to
photograph, broadcast, record, and videotape my/my child’s participation in the Therapeutic Riding
Program or any therapy activities, and to use my/my child’s photograph and likeness for professional or other
commercial purposes without my prior review and without
Page 2 Volunteer Release
compensation of any kind. On behalf of myself and my heirs, assigns, and representatives, I hereby waive any
defamation, invasion of privacy or other claim arising from my child’s participation in the Therapeutic Riding
Program or the use of any videotape, broadcast, photograph, or recording thereof, and I hereby release,
discharge, covenant not to sue, and indemnify the Released Parties from liability for any and all damages
including, without limitation, compensatory damages, punitive and exemplary damages, which may in any way
result from or arise out of the use of any videotape, broadcast, photograph or recording of my child’s
participation in the Therapeutic Riding Program.
It is further understood that the Released Parties shall not be held liable for loss or damage of any
money, jewelry, clothing, glasses, articles of unusual value or any other property of rider brought to the TRAK
farm or any other location where I participate in the TRAK program.
It is further understood and agreed that the Released Parties have the right to refuse participation or
continued participation in the therapeutic riding program or any other related recreational or therapeutic
program due to conduct, in which, in the sole discretion of the Released Parties is felt to be disruptive or which
prevents carrying out the orderly operation of the TRAK program.
I acknowledge that I have had the opportunity to review this Release, and that I understand all of
these terms and conditions. I understand that, by my signature below, I am authorizing myself/my child
to participate in the Therapeutic Riding Program with therapists from Therapeutic Riding Academy of
Knoxville and Parent-Child Services Group, Inc.* and The Butler Family, and that I am releasing any
and all claims my child or I may have against the Released Parties (TRAK, PCSG, or The Butler Farm)
for any injury or property damage suffered while participating in the Therapeutic Riding Program.
Under Tennessee law, an equine professional is not liable for an injury to or the
death of a participant in equine activities resulting from the inherent risk of equine
activities pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated Title 44, Chapter 20, Part I.
Signature of Parent or Guardian Date
Printed Name of Parent or Guardian Name of Participant
Address of Parent or Guardian Address of Participant
*Parent-Child Services Group, Inc. provides billing and individualized programming for children receiving
Physical Therapy and/or Speech-Language Pathology services in conjunction with TRAK, but does not provide
programming or services for children not receiving these therapies.
Therapeutic Riding Academy of Knoxville (TRAK)
Volunteer/Therapist Sign-in Sheet
Name: Date: Duties: Time In: Time Out:
Observation Day Date: Volunteer Training Day Date: Forms
completed: completed: Completed:
Signature of Date of Were volunteer duties Total
Director: Review: accomplished well/notes: Hours:
*Please sign in/out every day that you volunteer. TRAK will need to have a copy. You can use it as tax-deductible donation of your
time on your tax return.
What is Therapeutic Riding?
Therapeutic riding uses equine-oriented activities for the purpose of contributing positively to the cognitive,
physical, emotional and social well being of people with disabilities. Therapeutic riding provides benefits in the
areas of therapy, education, sport, and recreation and leisure.
Equine activities are used as a form of therapy to achieve physical, psychological, cognitive, behavioral and
communication goals. The therapy is provided by a licensed/credentialed health professional*. The use of the
horse involves a team approach among licensed/credentialed health professionals, therapeutic riding instructors
and clients. The client may be treated in a group or on an individual basis directly by the health professional.
Health professionals integrate the treatment principles of their professions into the equine activities used in a
Several health professions, including Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Pathology, and
Psychology, have developed specialized forms of treatment using the horse within those professions. These
include, but are not limited to: Classic Hippotherapy, Hippotherapy, Developmental Riding Therapy, and
Equine activities are used to achieve psycho-educational goals for people with physical, mental and
psychological impairments as well as to provide the individual with skills in the sport chosen (such as riding).
The emphasis is to incorporate cognitive, behavioral, psychological, and physical goals into the program plan
while teaching adapted riding. The horse is a strong motivator for accomplishing these goals.
Therapeutic riding instructors, educational specialists and licensed/credentialed health professionals are
involved in the design and implementation of the programs. The frequency of consultation with educational
specialist and health professionals is determined on an individual basis.
People with physical, mental and psychological impairment can participate in sport activities - adapted as
needed – with the horse. These activities include riding as forms of therapeutic recreation and competition.
Activities are directed toward the acquisition of skills leading to the accomplishment of specific horsemanship
goals. By learning skills needed for the sport, therapeutic and recreation goals are also achieved. Therapeutic
riding instructors are primarily responsible for the design and implementation of the program.
Licensed/credentialed health professionals, educational specialists, and recreational therapist may assist the
instructor in a variety of ways, and they are generally involved on a consultative basis.
Individuals have the option of participation in a therapeutic riding program or pursuing their equine activities
Recreation and Leisure
People with physical, mental, and psychological impairments may use equine activities - adapted as needed – as
a recreation and leisure experience. The emphasis in on an enjoyable and relaxing experience that provides
additional therapeutic benefits in the areas of socialization, posture, mobility and an overall improved quality of
life. Individuals may participate in horse-related activities to their maximum ability in an atmosphere of
support, structure, and socialization for the primary purpose of the intrinsic enjoyment of the activity.
Therapeutic riding instructors and recreational therapists are primarily responsible for program development.
Licensed/credentialed health professionals and educational specialists are generally involved on a consultative
“Licensed/credentialed health professionals” refers to physical therapists, occupational therapists,
speech-language pathologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians, nurses and rehabilitation
specialists. Heath professionals providing direct service “therapy” through equine activities should
have additional specialized training in the use of the horse as a component of treatment in their
respective area of expertise.
TRAK Combines Traditional Therapies with Therapeutic Riding
TRAK provides Speech-Language and Physical Therapy during Therapeutic Riding. The speech therapist will
instruct and direct activities to best target goals relating to communication, cognition, pragmatics, and other
speech goals while the physical therapist helps to position the client to best meet their physical needs and goals.
What is NARHA?
North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) is a non-profit organization headquartered
in Denver, Colorado that exists to promote equine activities for individual with disabilities.
Formed in 1969, NARHA members are individuals and centers that participate in therapeutic riding programs.
Individual members are volunteers, riding instructors, disabled riders and their families, physicians, therapists,
teachers, researchers and concerned individuals. The NARHA centers are the heart of the riding for the
disabled community as they bring together all the necessary individuals, horses, equipment and program
knowledge. NARHA centers range from small, on-person programs serving a half-dozen riders to large
operations with several instructors serving up to 200 riders each week.
NARHA promotes therapeutic riding primarily through public awareness campaigns and educational events.
Above all, NARHA is concerned with safety and service to members and riders. Consequently, NARHA has
developed several programs that are designed to benefit everyone concerned with therapeutic riding. These
include center accreditation, instructor certification, insurance, conferences, and workshops.
All instructors at Horse and Buddy have passed the Registered Instructor Certification with NARHA. Horse
and Buddy is also a member center of NARHA.
More information on NARHA can be obtained at their website: www.narha.org
Types of Volunteers
Volunteers perform multiple tasks in a therapeutic riding center. If you want to work directly with horses or
riders, you can be a groomer, leader, or sidewalker. If you want to help in other ways, we always need
administrative, marketing, grant writing, and fundraising help. There are also special activities that often
require additional helpers such as horse shows and Special Olympics.
Most volunteers take on multiple roles – most commonly those of leader or side-walker. To be a side-walker,
you must be at least 14 years old. No experience with horses is necessary, but you must want to work with
people with disabilities. To be a leader, you must be at least 13 years old and have significant horse experience.
Sidewalkers usually get the most hands-on duties in therapeutic riding. They are directly responsible for the
rider. As such, they have the capability to either enhance or detract from the lesson. In the arena, the
sidewalker should help the student focus his attention on the instructor. Try to avoid unnecessary talking with
either the rider or other volunteers. Too much input from too many directions is very confusing to anyone, and
to riders, who already have perceptual problems, it can be overwhelming. If two sidewalkers are working with
one student, one should be the designated talker.
When the instructor gives a direction, allow your student plenty of time to process it. If the instructor says
“Turn to the right, toward me,” and the student seems confused, gently tap the right hand and say “Right,” to
reinforce the command. You will get to know the riders and learn when they need help and when they’re just
not paying attention.
It’s important to maintain a position by the rider’s knee. Being too far forward or back will make it very
difficult to assist with instruction or provide security if the horse should trip or shy.
There are two ways to hold onto the rider without interfering. The most commonly used is the arm-over-the-
thigh hold. The sidewalker grips the front of the saddle with the hand closest to the rider. Then the fleshy part
of the forearm rests gently on the rider’s thigh. Be careful that the elbow doesn’t accidentally dig into the
Sometimes pressure on the thigh can increase or cause muscle spasticity, especially for riders with cerebral
palsy. In this case, the therapeutic hold may be used. Here, the leg is held at the joints, usually the kneed or
ankle. Check with the instructor or therapist for the best way to assist. In the (unlikely) event of an
emergency, the arm-over-the-thigh hold is the most secure.
Avoid wrapping an arm around the rider’s waist. It is tempting, especially when walking beside a pony with a
young or small rider, but it can offer too much and uneven support. At times, it can even pull the rider off
balance and make riding more difficult. Encourage your student to use his own trunk muscles to the best of his
During exercises, pay attention to the student. Sometimes volunteers forget that the riders are to do the
exercises and the sidewalkers are to reinforce and assist. The same applies to games. Don’t get so competitive
that your rider doesn’t get to use his skills because you do it for him in an effort to win. The ultimate goal for
therapeutic riding is to encourage the rider to stretch and grow. You are right at his side, so help the instructor
to challenge him to the best of his ability.
One of the most challenging duties that can be assigned to a volunteer is that of leader. A leader’s first
responsibility is the horse but they must also consider the sidewalkers, making sure there is enough room
along the fence and around obstacles for them to pass.
An effective leader pays close attention to the rider’s needs as well as to where the horse is going. This
reinforces the rider’s attempts to control the horse. However, you should not execute an instruction for the
rider before he has time to process the information and make an effort to comply. Sometimes it may be
appropriate to walk into the corner and stand until the student figures out what to do.
Avoid the temptation to talk to the rider or sidewalkers. A rider may get confused by too much input and
not know who’s in charge. (Instructors often make terrible leaders because they can’t keep their mouths shut!).
Talk to your horse; most of them know whoa, walk, and trot, or can learn the words. Watch where you’re
going and what’s happening around you. Do not walk backward to look at the rider. It’s dangerous for
everyone and the horse isn’t eager to follow someone who can’t see where he is going.
NEVER coil the lead rope around your hand. That could end a close relationship with your fingers.
Use short tugs rather than a steady pull to keep a lazy horse moving. The horse can set himself against a steady
pull, but tugs keep him awake.
When you halt for more than a few seconds, keep a close eye on the horse and loosely hold the lead or reins.
Even though it is tempting to help pick up a toy or join in an activity, please leave this for the sidewalkers.
Your duty is to keep a close eye on how all activities and movement’s are affecting the horse. Remember
not to put your fingers through the snaffle or halter rings.
If the worst happens and there is an accident, stay with the horse. There are other people to care for a
fallen rider. The situation could easily become more dangerous if there are loose horses running around the
arena. Move your horse as far from the fallen student as possible and keep calm. Listen for the
Contact and Emergency Action Plan/Procedure
Stacie Hirsch #865-386-5970
TRAK Farm 7316 West Emory Road, Knoxville, TN 37931
In an emergency:
1. Stay Calm.
2. All riding Stops.
3. Listen for the instructor’s directions.
4. Call 911 if you are instructed to do so.
a. Address is: 7316 West Emory Road, Knoxville, TN 37931
b. Directions to TRAK: From Western Avenue, right Harrell Rd at the light, left on
West Emory, farm is ½ mile on the left.
c. Stop all activity.
5. Try to keep riders and horses calm.
6. Do not move a fallen rider.
7. NO ONE, including parents, is allowed in the arena if an accident occurs. Only those
called in by the instructor may enter.
8. First aid kit is located in the tack room, on the shelf next to the refrigerator.
9. To remove a horse from the accident scene, back the horse away from the accident.
10. Keep a hold of the lead rope, if a horse bolts. Settle them with soothing voice and
11. If a horse pulls back, go with the horse-not against.
12. Use over-the-thigh holds to secure rider if the horse is bolting.
13. To dismount a rider in an emergency, clear the rider’s feet of the stirrups, put your
arm around their waist and pull them to your hip.
Use a cell phone. Emergency numbers and directions to the facility are located in each barn. All injuries,
especially those needing first aid, need to be reported on an Incident Report Form by the instructor.
Rules of Therapeutic Riding Academy of Knoxville (TRAK)
1. All riders must wear helmets designed for horseback riding at all times when mounted. No sandals or bare
feet are permitted at any time for riders OR volunteers.
2. TRAK, The Butler Family, or PCSG assume no liability for anyone using the facilities.
3. Avoid running, shouting, sudden movements and riotous activity while at the barn. Sudden noises and
movements can startle horses and cause accidents. Please ask before taking pictures, if given permission
please do not use the flash.
4. An adult AT ALL TIMES must accompany children not in lessons at the farm. Volunteers may be dropped
off for the duration of their session(s). All volunteers must be picked up within 15 minutes of the end of
their scheduled session(s).
5. NO ONE is to wander or play in the pastures. Horses can and will bite and kick.
6. No Smoking at any time on the farm. No exceptions.
7. Horses should only be tied with a quick-release tie in designated areas. Do not tie horses to gates, doors, etc.
8. Do not feed any horses in the pastures or give them treats. If you want to give them treats request
permission and give the treat in a feed bucket. Feeding by hand teaches them to bite!
9. Speed limit is 10 miles per hour.
10. If it does not belong to you, please ask before you use it.
11. If you open it, close and lock it.
12. If you or your horse mess it up, please clean it up.
13. If you get it out, please put it away.
14. If you turn it on, please turn it off.
15. If it neighs, please LOVE IT!
16. If you hear students or client’s names and information, please do not repeat them outside of the TRAK
sessions. This information is confidential.
Thank you, we couldn’t operate without you!!!
Therapeutic Riding Academy of Knoxville (TRAK)
For safety reasons, all volunteers should adhere to the following dress code when participating in
therapeutic riding program:
1. Long pants or jeans must be worn at all times unless in extreme heat, then shorts that come to mid-
thigh (the tips of your fingers).
2. Leather boots or hard leather shoes.
3. During warm weather conditions, all volunteers should wear the TRAK T-shirt.
4. Jackets and gloves should be worn on cold days.
5. Sunglasses and/or sunscreen are encouraged on sunny days.
Smoking: No smoking is allowed in or around the barn area, pastures, grooming area, or riding arena.
Pets: Please do not bring family pets to TRAK sessions.
Facility: Please remember to leave our facility in the same or better condition as when you arrived.
Gates: Please remember to keep the arena gates closed at all times.
Horses: Please do not feed the horses without permission.
Siblings: parents should supervise Siblings of students at all times while on the TRAK site.
REQUIREMENTS Before Volunteering:
1. A consent form must be completed.
2. An emergency information and liability release form signed by the volunteer (if over 18) and / or
parent / guardian, giving permission for emergency treatment to be given in case of accident, and
releasing TRAK from liability.
3. Completed volunteer application.
4. A site liability release form signed by the parent/guardian that releases the site from liability in
case of accident. (This is now included in the general release).
5. Turn in a schedule of availability for a one-two month period, so that you can be scheduled into the
sessions. We understand that schedules can change, but we completely depend on our volunteers
and need advanced notice as much as possible, so that we can schedule our students.
6. Observation & training day completed prior to first independent volunteer session. Schedule these
with the TRAK Director.
We completely depend on our volunteers and need advanced notice (as much as possible, emergency
situations are understood) when you are unable to come to your scheduled session. If you cannot come,
please attempt to find a replacement from the volunteer list.
Ways to be an Effective Volunteer
Consider safety first at all times.
Treat riders and horses kindly but firmly.
Give instructor feedback about the rider at appropriate times.
Remain calm in an emergency and remember your job.
Acknowledge the efforts of your rider.
Do not hang or rest on horse, rider, fencing, or rails.
Wear sensible clothing and shoes.
First ask the rider to do the task independently, THEN assist.
Always encourage the rider to thank the horse.
If you are afraid or apprehensive, the horse will know it. Talk to the instructor if you are uncomfortable
with an assignment.
Do not talk through your rider. Talk to your rider.
Latch all doors and gates behind you.
If you aren’t sure, please ask questions.
Notify an instructor immediately if a horse is acting oddly.
The riding instructor is in charge of all riding emergencies.
Never approach a horse from the rear.
Be familiar with our emergency procedures.
Never hand feed the horses.
Park in designated areas.
Be reliable. People are depending on you.
Greet your rider upon arrival and acknowledge their departure.
Your genuine friendship and empathy are appreciated.
Remain calm in any emergency or stressful situation.
Give verbal cues when leading.
Make reference only to the person, not the disability.
Listen to and help the rider focus on the instructor’s directions.
Respect everyone’s right to confidentiality.
Allow a rider to fail as well as succeed.
Bring your positive energy, not your problems, to the rider.
Help maintain a safe and welcoming environment.
Never wrap a lead around your hand.
Offer physical support only when needed.
Don’t suffer through a personality clash. Ask to be reassigned.
Allow riders to share their lives and friendship without prying.
Return things to the spot you found them.
If something is broken or needs fixing, let someone know.
If a rider has fallen, never move them. Defer to the instructor.
Sign or check in and out every time you volunteer.
Choose your words carefully; they can impact other’s lives.
Call in advance if you are ill or unable to make your scheduled time.
Patience + Praise = Success and Results
Remember that your dedication and sincerity truly make a world of difference!!!
Circling wrong way
Switching sidewalker and leader
Leader not stepping in front of horse when stopped
Pulling on horse to get him to move
Sidewalkers not paying attention or walking too far away from rider
Talking across the rider
Wrapping a lead rope around your hand
Walking backwards when leading
Trying to drag the horse
Walking too close to another horse
Smashing the sidewalker
Leading too far behind so sidewalker steps on you
Understanding Your Horse
1. Horses are intelligent animals.
2. Horses are creatures whose primary means of defense is flight.
3. Horses are animals that have been created with eyes on the sides of their heads to see predators at great
distance. They have blind spots immediately in front, and behind them. They have a cone of blindness about
six feet in front and behind. Stay out of this area when possible.
4. Horses have no conscience. In spite of what many would like to believe, your horse may run over you and
it will not feel a bit bad unless it hurts itself in the process.
Handling your Horse
The first chance of injury is when you meet the horse. This is usually when you get him from the stall or
pasture. At the stall, make sure the horse is aware of your intentions. As you open the stall door, talk to him, get
his attention. Usually he will turn his head toward you or walk to you. Approach him from the left front side if
possible. Talk to him, pat him on the shoulder, put the halter on and attach the lead. If he already has the halter
on, approach him as above and attach the lead. Stay on the front left side, next to his shoulder and lead him out
to the cross ties or work area. If he is in the pasture the approach is the same but be aware of the other horses
around him and the gate. Again talk to him. Usually he will recognize you and walk toward you, or turn to you.
Pat him on the shoulder and let him know your intentions
The most frequent horse related injuries are; being bitten, struck, kicked, stepped on, squeezed or butted. You
can be struck with the front feet when approaching him from the front or working on the front end. A kick
happens when approaching him from the hind or working on the hind end. You may be stepped on while
leading or working on a horse. Squeezing happens in tie stalls or when the horse is tied against a wall. Butting
can happen whenever you are too near a horses' head. Perhaps the most serious injuries occur when a horse
spooks when being lead or while working on him.
When you approach the horse to put on the halter or lead, he can bite you, strike you or kick at you. That is
when you must communicate your intentions. Always let him know where you are. When leading stay at the
front left shoulder, not in front where he can walk over you, or in back of the shoulder where he can kick you.
Most important of all, never wrap the lead around your hand or wrist. That is a serious mistake. If the
horse spooks or shies and runs you could be dragged and severely injured.
Let him know your intentions and keep his focus. Your chance for an accident or injury will be reduced. Pat
him and let him know you are there. When you pick up a front foot, pat him on the shoulder and work you way
down the leg so when you do pick it up he knows it is you and not a fly. Watch his feet and your feet. Make
sure they don't find each other.
On the hind end, pat him on the butt and work your way down his leg as you reach for his foot. Don't startle
him. Make sure he knows it is your hand and not a fly. Keep a hand on his flank so that if he moves toward you,
he will push you away. When you change sides, stay close to his hind end. Pat and talk to him. Let him know
where you are.
Some people will not cross immediately behind a horse. If you do, stay very close. The shorter his stroke, the
less it will hurt should he kick. I prefer to walk far enough behind so that I can't be kicked, or to move around
his front end.
When you put the horse back, it is much the same as when you caught him.
Pay attention and don't give him the chance to step on your feet, bite, or kick you. Lead him at the front left
shoulder. The next thing is important. When you release the horse turn him to you and unhook the lead line.
That way he will not run past you and kick you.
When developing relationships and working with horses, communication is key. It is critical to provide a safe
environment in a therapeutic riding setting. Beginning a process of understanding the horse senses, instincts,
and implications is a step in predicting behaviors, managing risks, and increasing positive relationships.
The horse’s sense of smell is thought to be very acute and it allows him to recognize other horses and people.
Smell also enables the horse to evaluate situations.
Allow horses the opportunity to become familiar with new objects and their environment by smelling.
It is recommended that treats are not carried in your pocket since horses may desire to go after them.
Volunteers should not eat or have food in the arena.
The horse’s sense of hearing is also thought to be very acute. The horse may also combine their sense of
hearing and sight to become more familiar with new or alerting sounds. “Hearing and not seeing” is often the
cause of the fright/flight response. Note the position of the horse’s ears. Forward ears communicate
attentiveness and interest. Ears that are laid back often communicate that they are upset and/or showing
aggression towards another horse or person
Horses are wary when they hear something but do not see it. If your horse is acting nervous, talk to him in a
quiet and calm voice for reassurance.
Avoid shouting or using a loud voice. This can be frightening to a horse.
Watch your horse’s ears for increased communication. Stiffly priced ears indicate interest. Drooping ears
indicate relaxation, inattentiveness (easily startled), exhaustion or illness. Flattened ears indicate anger,
threat, or fear. Ears flicking back and forth indicate attentiveness or interest.
The horse’s eyes are set on either side of the head; there is good peripheral (lateral) vision, but poorer frontal
vision. A horse focuses on objects by raising ad lowering its head. The horse’s visual memory is very
accurate. Horses are thought to see quite well in the dark, due to the large size of their eyes. There is still
controversy as to whether or not horses see in color.
The horse may notice if something in the arena or out on a trail is different. Allow the horse an opportunity
to look at new objects. Introduce new props that the horse may be unfamiliar with.
The horse has better peripheral vision; consider a slightly looser rein, enabling him to move his head when
taking a look at objects.
Although the horse has good peripheral vision, consider two blind spots: directly in front and directly
behind. The best way to approach a horse is to his shoulder. It may startle him if you approach from
behind or directly in front. The horse may be unable to see around the mouth area, which is a safety
consideration when hand feeding.
Touch is used as a communication between horses and between horses and people. Horses are sensitive to soft
or rough touch with a person’s hands or legs.
Handlers should treat the horses gently but firmly.
Each horse has sensitive areas, and it is important to be familiar with them (i.e. flank and belly areas).
Watch rider leg position. Riders may need appropriate assistance to reduce a “clothes pin” effect with their
legs. Ask the instructor/therapist what is the best handling technique.
Horses will often touch or paw at unfamiliar objects. For example, a horse may paw at a bridge or ground
pole before crossing over it.
Taste is closely linked with the sense of smell and helps the horse to distinguish palatable foods and other
Taste is closely linked with smell and touch; therefore, a horse may lick or nibble while becoming familiar
with objects and people. Be careful, as this could lead to possible biting.
Horses do have a “sixth sense” when evaluating the disposition of those around him. Horses can be
hypersensitive in detecting the moods of their handler and riders. A good therapy horse is chosen for their
sensitive response to the rider. At times, there may exist a personality conflict between handlers and horses. It
is important to let the instructor/therapist know if you’re having a difficult time relating or getting along with a
Flight as a Natural Instinct
Horses would rather turn and run away from danger than face and fight it.
At a sudden movement or noise, the horse might try to flee. Speak to the horse calmly.
A frightened horse that is tied up or being held tightly might try to escape by pulling back. Relax your hold
or untie him quickly and usually he will relax. Be sure not to stand directly behind the horse.
If flight is not possible, the horse could either turn to kick out or face the problem and rear, especially in a
tight area like the stall. A halter with a lead rope may assist with maintaining control while working around
the horse in a stall.
If a horse appears to be frightened or fearful (note the position of the horse’s ears in following pictures), it
may be helpful to allow a more experienced horse person to lead.
Most horses chosen to work in a therapeutic riding setting have less of an instinct to flee. The horse may
look to you for reassurance. It is helpful if the volunteer remains calm and talks to the horse in a soothing
Horses like to stay together in a herd or group with one or two horses dominant, with a pecking order amongst
Be aware that a horse may not like being alone. This is a consideration when horses are leaving the arena or
a horse loses sight of the others while on a trail ride.
Be aware that if the horse in front of a line is trotting or cantering, the horse that is following may also
attempt to trot or canter.
If one horse spooks at something, the surrounding horses may also be affected.
For safety, it is recommended to keep at least one horse’s length between horses when riding within a group
to respect the horse’s space and pecking order.
Reading his Ears
Most people believe that when a horse puts her ears back she is expressing anger or aggression. This is true only
some of the time. Other times it may indicate threat she's listening behind her, that she's afraid, or even that she
is a little sleepy. When a horse puts her ears back flat to her neck and shows the white of her eyes, she really
means it! You will often see horses in groups use this expression with one another. It is a threat, and the threat
may be followed up with a bite or sometimes a kick. You may receive a mild version of it yourself if you
tighten the girth too rapidly. You'll learn to see the difference between a mildly threatening look and a serious
threat. You won't jump out of your skin every time your horse pins back her ears. You will notice the signs of
bad temper, though, and increase your watchfulness.
(left) An angry horse will frequently put her ears back and show the whites of her eyes. If you see this type of
expression, be careful!
(right) An attentive horse will often tip one or both ears back to listen for your commands.
When your horse's ears go back, it doesn't always mean she's angry or threatening. When you are riding or
working around her, your horse will tip one or both ears back. This shows that she's paying attention to you.
She's listening for your voice or footsteps. This is a good attitude, which increases your coordination together
and your safety. If your horse is bored or half-asleep, her ears will tip back and out to the side at a gentle angle.
You'll want to watch for the ears on a sleepy or bored horse to move before you approach, indicating that she's
aware of your presence. In order to be fair to your horse and to understand what she's feeling, you must learn to
recognize the differences among all these ways of putting back the ears. You don't want to scold her for
aggression when she's only feeling bored, but you do want to be sure to keep her alert. By the same token, you
don't want her to take you by surprise when she suddenly attacks a passing pony. With observation you'll be
able to tell the difference easily, just as you can when a human is smiling or sneering.
Ears tipped back and out are a sign of boredom.
People usually interpret ears pointed forward as an expression of friendliness and good cheer, a safe expression.
Often this is true, but there are situations in which your horse's pricked ears are a definite danger signal. Your
horse's ears will always point to where her interest lies; that grain pail in your hand, the horse across the road,
the flying piece of newspaper, or the neighbor's yapping dachshund. When you are out riding on an interesting
new trail, your horse will usually cruise along with her ears forward. She's taking in the sights and paying more
attention to the scenery than to you. This is no problem if the footing is good and if you aren't demanding a
precision performance from her. If the footing is questionable, though, you'll want to regain a little of her
attention. Stop and start once or twice, unexpectedly, and wake her up a little. Make sure you decide which side
of a rock or tree you pass on. She should be aware that you are up there, in control of things. If your horse is
straining her ears forward at a strange horse, she's probably intending to sniff noses with that horse. Loud
squeals, kicks, or nips may follow - unsafe for horses and riders both. Be aware of who your horse is pointing
her ears at and be prepared to prevent a squabble. Intensely pricked ears can also mean that your horse is likely
shy. If some new object startles her she may stop, ears pricked and head high, and then leap sideways. These
early-warning signs can pass very quickly. She may prick her ears and jump at the same moment. Still, pricked
ears can often warn you in time - and a horse who pricks her ears at every leaf along the trail may be a horse
who is looking for something to shy at. She needs to be watched and corrected - but not too harshly. It's usually
just an expression of high spirits. Another time to watch pricked ears is when you're standing within nipping
range. Pricked ears can express mischief, and mischief often means a quick, playful bite.
(left) Upright or forward ears generally indicate an alert horse.
(right) Stiff and tilted ears are a first sign of fear.
Other Things to Watch
Tucking the tail down tightly
Danger to the rear
Horse may bolt, buck, or kick
Watch out if ears are flattened too!
Switching the tail
Annoyance and irritation at biting flies, stinging insects, or bothersome actions of rider or sidewalkers!
Droopy ears and resting one hind leg on toe
Calm and resting; horse may be dozing
Don’t wake him up by startling him!
Wrinkling up the face and swinging the head
Threatening gesture of an angry or bossy horse
Watch out for biting or kicking
Parts of the Horse
It is NOT a requirement for volunteers to know ANY parts of the horse! However, it is nice to know some
basics to teach the kids while the instructor may be working with other students in the program.
Parts of the Tack
Again, there is no requirement to know the parts of the tack, except to teach the kids. It is nice for you to know
that we ride English as opposed to Western!
The English Saddle
The following are brief, non-medical descriptions of some disabilities and conditions of participants one might
encounter in a therapeutic riding setting. This is not intended as a comprehensive explanation of a specific
disability. Rather, it is a general overview with an explanation of how therapeutic riding can be beneficial.
Inflammatory disease of the joints.
Types: Osteo, rheumatoid and juvenile rheumatoid
Characteristics: Pain; lack of mobility; deformity; loss of strength
Benefits (of therapeutic riding): Gentle rhythmic movement to promote joint mobility and relieve pain
A self-centered mental state from which reality tends to be excluded.
Characteristics: Unresponsiveness to the presence of others; withdrawal from physical contact; severely
delayed and disordered language; self-stimulating behaviors; unusual or special fears; insensitivity to pain;
unawareness of real dangers; hyperactive; passive; unusual behaviors such as smelling/tasting/licking/mouthing
all objects; ritualistic behaviors; developmentally delayed; unusual response to sounds; clumsiness; social
withdrawal; resistance to change.
Benefits: Interaction in a group setting stimulates interest away from self and toward others and the horses.
Postural and verbal stimulation.
Brain damage occurring before, at, or shortly after birth. It is a non-progressive motor disorder.
Types and Characteristics:
Spastic: hypertonicity with hyperactive stretch reflexes, muscle imbalances and equilibrium. Increased startle
reflex and other pathological reflexes.
Athetoid: extensor muscle tension, worm-like movements, abnormal posturing and slow and deliberate speech.
Ataxic: poor balance, difficulty with quick, fine movements and are often described as having a “rag doll”
Benefits: Normalization of tone, stimulation of postural and balance mechanisms, muscle strengthening and
perceptual motor coordination.
Associated Problems: Seizures; hearing defects; visual defects; general sensory impairment; perceptual
problems, communication problems; mental retardation; emotional disturbance; learning disabilities.
Cerebral Vascular Accident – Stroke (CVA)
Hemorrhage in brain, which causes varying degrees of functional impairment.
Characteristics: Flaccid or spastic paralysis of arm and leg on same side of body. May impair mentation,
speech, sight, balance, coordination, and strength.
Benefits: Promotes symmetry, stimulates balance, posture, motor planning, speech and socialization.
Developmental Disabilities (DD)
A general term applied to children functioning two or more years below grade level.
Characteristics: Varied, but can include slow physical, motor and social development.
Benefits: Provides arena for success, opportunity for sport and recreation, stimulates body awareness.
Condition in which a person is born with an extra chromosome, resulting in mental retardation and
Characteristics: Broad, flat face, slanted eyes, neck and hands are often broad and short. Usually hypotonic,
have hypermobile joints and tend to be short and slightly overweight. Prone to respiratory infections.
Benefits: Riding improves expressive and receptive language skills, gross and fine motor skills, balance,
posture, muscle tone and coordination.
A congenital or acquired syndrome often compounded by learning and/or physical disabilities incorporating
numerous other pathologies.
Characteristics: Trouble coping with everyday life situations and interpersonal relations. Behaviors such as
short attention span, avoidance, aggression, autism, paranoia or schizophrenia may be exhibited.
Benefits: Increases feelings of self-confidence and self-awareness, and provides appropriate social outlet.
Abnormal electrical activity of the brain marked by seizures with altered consciousness.
Types and Characteristics:
Petit Mal: Brief loss of consciousness with loss of postural tone. May have jerky movements, blank
Grand Mal: Loss of consciousness and postural tone. Usually preceded by an aura. (Note: An active seizure
disorder is a contraindication for horseback riding).
Congenital or acquired hearing loss varying from mild to profound.
Characteristics: Communication difficulties – may use lip reading, finger spelling (manual alphabet) or sign
language. Often phase out and have attention deficits.
Benefits: Stimulates self-confidence, balance, posture, and coordination. It also provides appropriate social
outlets and interactions.
Learning Disabilities (LD)
Catch-all phrase for individual who have problems processing, sequencing and problem solving, but who appear
to have otherwise normal intelligence levels.
Characteristics: Short attention span, easily frustrated, immature.
Benefits: Effects depend upon the particular disorder. Stimulates attention span, group skills, cooperation,
language skills, posture and coordination.
Lack of ability to learn and perform at normal and acceptable levels. Degree of retardation is referred to as
educable, trainable, sever or profoundly retarded.
Characteristics: Developmentally delayed in all areas. Short attention span.
Benefits: Stimulates group activity skills, coordination, balance, posture, gross and fine motor skills and eye-
hand coordination. Provides a structured learning environment.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Progressive neurological disease with degeneration of spinal column tracts, resulting in scar formation
Characteristics: Most commonly occurs in the 20 to 40-year-old range. It is progressive with periods of
exacerbation and remissions. Fatigues easily. Symptoms include weakness, visual impairment, fatigue, loss of
coordination and emotional sensitivity.
Benefits: Maintains and strengthens weak muscles and provides opportunities for emotional therapy.
Associated Problems: Visual impairment, emotional liability, and impaired bowel and bladder function.
Muscular Dystrophy (MD)
Deficiency in muscle nutrition with degeneration of skeletal muscle. Hereditary disease that mainly affects
Characteristics: Progressive muscular weakness, fatigues easily, sensitive to temperature extremes.
Benefits: Provides opportunity for group activity, may slow progressive loss of strength, stimulates postural
and trunk alignment, and allows movement free of assistive devices.
Associated Problems: Lordosis, respiratory infection
Infectious virus disease.
Characteristics: Flaccid paralysis, atrophy of skeletal muscle, often with deformity.
Benefits: Strengthens non-paralyzed muscles, stimulates posture.
Lateral curve of the spine with a C or S curve with rotary component.
Characteristics: Postural asymmetry. May wear scoliosis jacket or have had stabilization surgery.
Benefits: Stimulates postural symmetry, strengthens trunk muscles. (Note: severe scoliosis is a
contraindication for therapeutic riding).
Congenital failure of vertebral arch closure with resultant damage to spinal cord.
Characteristics: Varying degrees of paralysis of the lower limbs coupled with sensory loss.
Problems: Infection, lordosis, scoliosis, and hip dislocations.
Benefits: Stimulates posture and balance, improves muscle strength and self image.
Associated Problems: Hydrocephalus, incontinence, urinary tract infection, lordosis, scoliosis and hip
Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)
Trauma to the spinal cord resulting in a loss of neurological function.
Characteristics: paralysis of muscles below the level of injury – can be flaccid or spastic. Fatigue, sensory
loss and pressure sores.
Benefits: Stimulates posture and balance, strengthens trunk muscles, is an option for sports participation and
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Accidental injury to the head resulting in intra-cranial bleeding with death of brain cells.
Characteristics: Gross and fine motor skills deficits. Often have impaired memory, speech, balance and/or
vision. May have psychological effects.
Benefits: Stimulates balance, posture, gross and fine motor skills, speech and perceptual skills.
Moderate to total loss of sight
Characteristics: Insecure posture, lack of visual memory, anterior center of gravity, fearfulness, and
Benefits: Stimulates spatial awareness, proprioception, posture and coordination. Provides social outlet,
structured risk taking and freedom of movement.
Therapeutic Riding Academy
I, _______________________, have received a copy of the TRAK training manual and have been trained to
follow the procedures outlined in this manual. I have observed a therapy session, and have been given proper
training TRAK. I have signed the releases and paperwork and take responsibility for my own actions during
each and every session I attend. I realize that TRAK cannot function without volunteers and will only cancel on
the day of therapy if an emergency situation arises. Otherwise, I will give advanced notice of my availability.
I will keep all sessions in confidentiality and will not repeat names or information heard in any TRAK setting. I
understand that these are therapy sessions with professionals and that these patients deserve their privacy.
Calendar of Volunteer Availability
For the Month of ______________
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
For the Month of ______________
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday