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“So you think you want to be a therapeutic riding horse?” Trial Horses Part 2- Trial Period and Desensitization

Last week’s post discussed the horse selection process, what we look for in trial horses and how we choose which horses we go look at.  This week we’re going to take a look into the trial period and what it takes to be a therapeutic riding horse.

Because of the tough nature of the job, the horses at Agape go through a trial period that lasts 60 days.  In order to give them time to settle in, each trial horse stays at least 30 days.

Lease Agreement-min
Sample lease agreement

Agape equine trainer and instructor, Cody Bogard, plays a big part in the assessment, training and desensitization of our trial horses.  He breaks down the basic differences between the first 30 days of the trial and the second 30 days.

“During the first 30 days, the focus is on teaching the horse what we want them to do and finding out if we like them.  In the second 30 days, the horse finds out if it likes its new job or if they’re acting out because they don’t like it.”

Each trial horse that comes to Agape has a lease agreement.  Horses are leased from their owners during the trial period.  After the trial is over, one of two things happens.

  • The horse fits our needs and transitions well into our program.  The horse is then either donated to Agape or leased for one year or longer.
  • The horse doesn’t fit with our current needs and returns to its owners.

The first 30 days of the trial consists mainly of assessing the horse’s personality, how they react to the activities we would do in classes and teaching them what this job is all about.  The horse gets a crash course on the job of a therapeutic riding horse.  It also is a time for our instructors to work with the horse and get to know them better.  The trial horse gets groomed in the barn during class time, is introduced to the trails, a wheelchair and the mounting ramp area.

After the first 30 days are up, the instructors vote whether to keep the horse for the second 30 days.  If the majority of instructors say yes, the horse then gets placed into classes to be used by our students during the second 30 days.

If for some reason a horse doesn’t work out after the first 30 days, it goes back to its owner, who retains ownership during the entire trial period.

The second 30 days allows more time for the horse to be worked with on the ground and under saddle.  During this time, Cody will work with the horse on any training that is required to be a therapy horse.  As Agape barn manager and instructor, Rachel is involved with the desensitization process, monitors trial horse ground manners and behavior at feed time, as well as pre-donation vet checks.  Since we do a variety of different activities during classes, our horses have to be accustomed to the unexpected- rings and objects flying over their heads and around them or riders who may be off balance.  These are things that most horses are not used to dealing with, but they happen often during therapeutic riding classes.

Cody, Agape’s equine trainer, works with trial horse Captain.

If the horse successfully completes the second 30 days, the instructors vote again.  This time the vote determines whether or not the horse will be added to the program.  If the horse does work out and transitions well into our program, the horse stays at Agape and donation or lease paperwork is filled out by the horse’s previous owners.

We want all of our trial horses to succeed, but we know this job isn’t right for every horse.  That’s why we give trial horses some time to settle in before we decide whether or not the horse would be a good fit for our program.  If you see a trial horse around the barn, give them some encouragement!  They’re transitioning into a very important job!
Do you know of a horse that might be a good fit for Agape?  If you do, contact Linda or head on over to our horse donation form here to get the process started.

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