School groups come weekly to the farm for a one-hour session that is divided equally between riding and horse-centered classroom activities. For therapeutic riding, each child is paired up with one certified riding instructor, who tailors the riding experience to the abilities/needs of the individual rider, as well as two trained volunteers. Riders are instructed to stop, start and turn the horse, touch parts of the horse, stand in the stirrups, walk and trot. We also have the opportunity to address social skills as a group when schools come, using exercises such as following the leader and incorporating concepts of waiting and delayed gratification.
The other 30 minutes of the session are spent participating in a classroom activity, which is also based around a farm curriculum and incorporates occupational and physical therapy goals. This curriculum was developed by a registered occupational therapist who is also a Pony Power Instructor. In the classroom, students touch materials related to the horses and discuss tack, types of feed and grooming of the horses in a way that promotes the use and improvement of fine and gross motor skills. Each session is designed to help children obtain new skills related to their thinking and behavior. Children come away from sessions feeling a greater sense of accomplishment and capability.
Through this program, we’ve worked with numerous northern New Jersey-based schools and partner agencies, including Bergen County Special Services, Hackensack University Medical Center, Ridge Ranch Elementary School, The Children’s Therapy Center, The Valley Hospital, Waldwick High School and Ridgewood School District, among others.