Gaby’s Blog – 7/31/14
What does a lesson look like?
Those of you who have been reading my posts might be wondering: what goes into a riding lesson here? What sorts of skills do ranchers learn? As you may imagine from the diverse group of youths who come here, the focus of each lesson can vary. And, as I learned from Jackie, there is a lot of thought and care that goes into the plan for each rider.
The first step is to pair up the horse and rider, considering a few different criteria. Size and weight of the rider compared with size of the horse, as well as availability of horses when multiple lessons are taking place are both important factors. How the rider carries her body, especially where sensory needs are concerned is another factor to assess as some horses do not appreciate sudden movements or loud noises from atop their backs.
Once the horse and rider are matched as a team, there are several steps to forming a lesson plan. First, a goal is determined through parent input, instructor observation and input from the ranch team, and even suggestions of more mature riders with a specific goal in mind for themselves. Then, the Ranch team puts together games and exercises to best aid each individual rider in reaching his or her goal. The initial objective is usually to maintain emotional regulation throughout the lesson to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all involved.
Then, riders may work on physical riding skills, or on understanding the emotions and behavior of the horse. Others may use the Ranch as an opportunity to practice skills like communicating, reading, and following directions.
Part of a typical ranch lesson often focuses on horsemanship skills – learning how to properly care for these animals who so graciously let us work with them. Similarly, a ranch chore is also included in the plan; through this, we riders can give a bit of our time back to this amazing place and feel even more a part of the Ranch community. Once a rider is mature and experienced, he or she is also given the goal of mentoring a younger, less experienced rider, bringing everything full circle.
I know I keep saying it, but we are all so fortunate to have such a special place like the Ranch!