The key to keeping everyone in the workshop safe is to make emotional and physical safety a priority—without creating an anxious or fearful workshop experience for the horses and people involved. There are many safety elements to consider when you are facilitating a Connected Horse workshop. You will learn more about them during your onsite training and the in-depth training on safety that follows.
Achieving our goal of Safe Participants * Safe Horses * Safe Staff/Volunteers means paying attention to two aspects of safety:
This lesson offers a brief overview of three interrelated components of physical safety for participants, horses, and staff and volunteers.
Creating a safe environment is one of your most important responsibilities as a facilitator.
Beyond the obvious need to keep people from getting hurt, there are several reasons why safety is our priority. People who are beginning the journey of dementia and or caregiving need to feel safe in order to let down their guard and open up to one another in a new setting.
Feeling safe in new situations while integrating with large horses is a big ask for many people. The protocols we put in place will help keep people out of harm’s way and begin to build a safe space for people to share personal stories and try new things.
The Connected Horse Program promotes safety by:
We pay attention to the safety and wellbeing of the horses during all the activities. Horses are prey animals and often have basic flight or fight response when they are feeling unsafe.
The horse handlers are primary responsible for observing body language and nonverbal communication of the horses. If a horse exhibits signs of pain, irritation or fear the horse should be removed from the activity. A horse should never be forced to complete an activity. Ears pinned, stamping feet, wide eyes, flaring nostrils, twitching muscles, groans or physical discomfort are all signs that a horse is not comfortable or feeling safe.
We have zero tolerance for rough behavior towards a horse. If a participant hits or displays any kind of aggressive behavior towards a horse you should immediately remove the horse from the situation.
Staff and volunteer safety is obtained when everyone is prepared, aware and communicating together. The following protocols for staff and volunteers will help improve safety for everyone:
The bottom line is that as a facilitator, you will always be scanning for safety, always looking to prevent or head off situations that could become unsafe. You may need to stop an activity and regroup participants before starting over. Or you may have to adapt or skip an activity all together. It is important to make these modifications before danger is imminent and without exacerbating fear.
Onsite training and fieldwork will help you recognize the potential for unsafe situations and sharpen your ability to prevent them and if needed, to respond to them.
Phase 2 of Connected Horse Facilitator training includes tools you can use to assess horses, barns, and participants for their appropriateness, and steps you and the horse handlers can take to help participants interact safely with horses.