Kids & Horses has entered the New Year with many goals, hopes, and dreams of what our organization will accomplish in 2018. Thanks to a generous donation, from Kim Burke, we began the year by having a chiropractor, Dr. Maria Beck, visit the ranch to evaluate and adjust our horses. We believe it is important to have our herd of therapy horses happy and healthy as another year of carrying clients begins. Dr. Beck did a wonderful job. We have more pictures of the adjustments up on our Facebook page, which we encourage you to check out.

            Do you know what a day in the life of a volunteer at Kids & Horses looks like? We are pleased to share with you a taste of what our volunteers experience during their time at the ranch. Phyllis Martin has been a volunteer for Kids & Horses for four years. On Thursdays, Phyllis comes in to horse handle for three therapy clients. Therapy is referring to physical, occupational, or speech and language treatment strategy that utilizes the movement of a horse to help achieve functional goals. Phyllis also volunteers on Sundays for adaptive riding, but for this letter she is going to be talking about Thursday.

This is how Phyllis describes her day as a horse handler.

My volunteer day at the ranch begins in the tack room. I sign the Volunteer Log Book, check the rider and volunteer schedule to look for any changes to my assigned lessons; and note the tack as well as the names of the therapist and side walkers. I gather all of the tack for the three sessions. I place it in a tack stall where I have written my name, the lesson times, and horses’ names on the white board in front of the stall.

Next, I go out to get the horse for my first session to begin warming him/her up a bit. I do a full grooming, saddling, and bridling of the horse.   When we are ready, it’s into the covered arena for more walking and maybe some trotting to warm-up the horse.

At lesson time, I stand next to my horse in the center of the arena. The therapist will come in and complete a final cinch check. Then, the rider, accompanied by the side walkers, enters the arena for his or her session. It is a great joy to see the excitement on their faces as they greet their horse, saying “hello”, and giving the horse a pat or two! In most of my sessions, the rider mounts from the stationary mounting block in the arena.   As the horse handler, I lead the horse to the mounting ramp. I keep the horse steady while the rider, assisted by the therapist and one side walker, mounts the horse. I lead the horse forward three steps and “whoa” him/her. The therapist, again, checks the cinch and stirrups. The session has begun.   I lead the horse, making sure the horse is calm, and follow the maneuvers requested by the therapist. At the end of the session, the rider dismounts per the therapist’s instruction. The horse and I wait until the student and side walkers have exited the arena, then it is safe to proceed leading the horse out of the arena. I take the horse back to the tack stall and unsaddle and put on his/her halter. I do a quick brushing of the horse’s back and under the cinch area, and I return the horse to his/her pen.   I take the halter off inside the pen, securely close the gate, and hang the halter outside the pen. For the next two lessons, I repeat the steps above. I return all of the tack to its proper place in the tack room, clean any muck from the tack stall, and go out to pick up any “deposited” manure during a lesson.   I usually walk by the horse’s pens with pats and praises for each of them!!! When I am ready to leave, I enter my hours in the Volunteer Log Book.

My job volunteering at Kids & Horses is special because I get to be one of the components that make this successful equine therapy program possible. I get to see, close-up, the tremendous help given to people with varying disabilities as well as giving a new appreciative and loving life to the horses!”    

Kids & Horses feels immensely blessed to have many volunteers like Phyllis who set aside time in their days each week to come out and make a difference in the lives of our clients. We can never thank all of our volunteers enough. They are amazing! If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, or if you would like to get back into being involved with the program, visit our website (www.kidsandhorses.org) to learn more. We would love to have you join our family.