Madison Fields’s Trial Period
At Madison Fields, when a new horse is brought into the herd they don’t go straight into working with riders. There is what we like to consider a trial period, where we dedicate 30 days to allow the horse to fully transition into their new role as a Therapeutic Riding (TR) horse and become comfortable with their new home.
Before the horse arrives at Madison Fields, our TR team takes a trip to meet the horse at their original home for an evaluation. This visit is used to determine what skills the team members are going to focus on during the trial period. The evaluation takes place at the horse’s original home so that the horse is more comfortable and willing to perform the tasks. Based on the results of that home evaluation, the decision is made whether to pursue a trial period and bring the horse to Madison Fields. If the TR team decides they wouldn’t be a good fit, then the horse remains at their farm. If they are successful in the home evaluation they are transferred to Madison Fields to begin their trial period.
During the first week of the trial period, the horse arrives at the farm and goes through the initial adjustment period. No skills are being taught at this time, because we want the horse to focus on learning about their new environment and routine.
The second week starts off with the introduction of grooming. This is when the horse is moved to the main part of the barn and groomed where they would be during a lesson. This week is also when the horse is being introduced to the mounting ramp and the different skills that are needed to successfully work with the ramp and riders. One day during this week the horse will be placed in the main barn area during a real lesson. They are not participating in the lesson, but they are there to get comfortable with the noises and the amount of people that are in the barn during that time.
The third week begins with a review and practice of all the skills that were taught the week before. The repetition of skills help the horse learn and reinforce the routine for the future. The horse begins their introduction with the different toys and obstacles used in a TR lesson. These toys include rings, hula hoops, the T-bar, bean bags, barrels, and stuffed animals. The introduction is an in-depth process; the horse is learning about a new toy or two each day of the week, so they don’t become overwhelmed.
In the final week, the TR team reviews all the skills taught in the previous two weeks for extra practice, and then the horse is introduced to the lesson structure. They begin to practice working in lessons that include: one horse leader, one horse leader and one side walker, and one horse leader and two side walkers. After learning these skills, the horse will more easily transition into the evaluation that takes place at the end of the trial. The evaluation is simply a mock lesson, where the horse will go through everything they would if they had a TR participant.
Lua working a horse leader & 1 side walker. Tap Dance working with a horse leader.
What Happens When Trial Period is Over
With the results of the mock lesson evaluation the TR team decides if the horse passes or fails the trail. A horse does not complete or pass a trial for several reasons. The most common is that they do not adjust well to their new environment or role as a TR horse. Sometimes, TR might not be the right job for that particular horse and that is okay. In these cases, the horse is returned to their original home. If they do pass, then the horse becomes an official member of the EAAT Team and is able to work with riders during lessons.
Meet the Newest Members of Our Team
Since 2020 began, Madison Fields welcomed three new horses to the Equine-Assisted Activities & Therapies program (EAAT). The newest additions to the herd are Lua, Tap Dance, and Polly.
Lua is a 20-year-old Oldenburg with a flea bitten grey coat, giving her a speckled appearance. She began lessons in the Winter 2020 session after completing her trial from December 2019 to January 2020. Lua is special because she is able to adapt to her riders abilities, meaning Lua is able to be ridden independently, or with a leader and side walkers. She is joining our herd on a free lease from one of our own TR instructors, Taylor Polito. Lua was bred to be a dressage horse, but was a ranch horse for most of her life.
Tap Dance, or Tap for short, is a 20-year-old Welsh Pony Cross that is short and stout with a long, beautiful forelock. Her trail took place from January to February 2020 and she will begin lessons in the Spring session. Tap is very special because she has a sense of humor and she is constantly asking for treats! Tap came to Madison Fields on a free lease from Mount Airy, MD to begin her trial in January. In her past she competed in the Hunter Jumper and Jumper arenas.
Polly, our gentle giant, is an all-black Percheron with a white spot on her forehead. Polly’s trial was from February to March 2020, and she is excited and ready for lessons to start in the Spring 2020 session! She stands out because she is now the biggest horse on the farm. Polly may be big, but she has a sweet, calming presence making her riders feel comfortable in the arena. She came to us on a lease from Jefferson, MD where she was previously a TR horse on a different farm.
It is always a great feeling when we welcome new horses onto our TR team. We are very excited to see what Lua, Tap Dance, and Polly are going to accomplish while they are here on the Madison Fields farm! If you are interested in learning more about the EAAT program please visit https://madisonfields.org/services/eaat-program/ or contact us at [email protected]