A Day on The Farm
I run a horse farm. I have 2 mares, a gelding, and a Shetland pony. This may seem small for a horse farm, but doing all the work myself, it is the maximum I can take on at the moment. I run a program for special needs children, especially children with Autism and Down Syndrome both of which are on the rise. It is registered as a recreational facility rather than a riding school or therapeutic program. I do teach some children to ride, but rather than insisting on these children to learn specific things, I stride to give them experiences that will teach them in other ways. Being able to play with the animals, and care for them often gives the kids a self-confidence that carries over to other parts of their lives.
I have two types of special saddles. One has a back and a strap for those who are unable to remain upright on the horses. The other is much like a regular saddle, only instead of a typical saddle horn, there are two handles in front for the child to hold onto. I also have regular saddles for the kids able to use them. All of the children are required to bring a helmit to be able to ride. I ask that the parents provide them to help prevent the risk of lice transfer.
I have some older children-friendly dogs for the children to play with as well. Playing catch is good for Occupational and Physical activities for the kids. Some of the kids prefer to feed and groom the horses and play with the dogs rather than riding, but it is still a good experience for them.
Though I am not a therapy provider, I do try to keep up on the child's IEP and other guidelines that have been made for the child. I fill out profiles on some of the kids to send to doctors and therapists. I see one child at a time, for two hour incriments. I can see three children a day. The parent or another responsible adult must be present with the child for the entire session. I prefer other children not to accompany the special needs child, because the concentration should be on the full one-on-one experience of the child in the program.
Though I have liability insurance, I also requre the child to have medical insurance, and proof of such is placed in their file. I allow them to miss one session a month free, the others missed must be paid for unless the child is dismissed or removed from the program, and exluding serious medical problems that may arise. For example, if the child is hospitalized and the parent does not want to pull the kid out, I will make exceptions. I only see children on weekdays. My weekends are dedicated to my own son.
I hope to be able to set up a special rodeo program that has events like barrel racing, rope tosses, and other events that are not physically dangerous like bull or bronc riding. However to really have a competition there needs to be other children able to be coached and entered.
I wrote th is thinking about what it would be like if I were able to set up my own horse program... Any suggestions or comments are welcome. Especialy suggestions on how I could make it come true :(