"Ask Sara" Blog

June 4, 2019

Our horses do amazing things for our participants. Today I wanted to touch on a few very small and simple things we can all do for them to be considerate while handling them during lessons (and before and after) to contribute to their success in the ring!.

Horses prefer to be out in the pasture eating grass with their friends. Everything we expect from domesticated horses is completely unnatural to them as a species; from living in stables, being touched multiple times per day by humans, eating processed foods, and drinking water out of plastic buckets - not to mention being mounted and ridden. Their natural instinct tells them to run away from things they fear. But with proper training, desensitization, setting clear boundaries, and earning their trust, we are able to get them to learn to face those fears and respond in a positive manner. This allows us to do things with them like jump obstacles, pull carts through city streets - and as they do here at Southern Reins - provide an inval...

January 10, 2019

2018 seems to have flown by, and we are amazed and inspired with the growth of our program.  We couldn’t have done it without the support of our incredible participants, volunteers, donors, and of course . . . our amazing herd.

As many of you know, we began our program in the fall of 2015 with 12 participants in our Therapeutic Riding program. Since then, we have developed numerous partnerships and added multiple services. First we began offering Hippotherapy with Occupational Therapists. Now - in addition to having two fabulous Occupational Therapists, Amanda Cobb and Beth Crotwell offering services to children and adults, we have Stacy Pritchard offering pediatric Physical Therapy and Leslie Anderson offering pediatric Speech Therapy.

As we have grown, so has our Instructor team! Diane Kirksey joined us in 2017 as the Administrative and Marketing Assistant, and she gained her Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor certification in 2018. Diane instructs at our Collierville Campus, mos...

June 29, 2018

It never hurts to have a refresher on certain protocols, especially if we have been performing a certain job or task for an extended period of time. In training here at Southern Reins, we often have to provide a lot of information in a short amount of time, so for this month’s blog post, I wanted to go through a few reminders that are very important when working with our participants here at the farm.

A person's diagnosis is confidential. We have several participants here that will choose to share their diagnosis, and it is their right to do so; however, we do not share this information with volunteers or fellow staff members. Our Instructors and Therapists are trained to work with all types of disabilities, but having others inquire about the effects of a participant’s diagnosis or symptoms is not required to provide support in a volunteer role.  We want all of our volunteers to feel confident in their role, and may provide information as needed, but we are not able to share the actual...

March 1, 2018

One of the things that a lot of our participants deal with on a daily basis is Sensory Processing Disorder. I wanted to write this blog post to help our volunteers understand how some of our participants process certain things, and how many of them are over sensitive or under sensitive to the world around them in an effort to help them understand why we see some of the reactions that we see in the ring everyday.

Our brains receive a steady stream of sensory information, like the smell of a meal cooking in the kitchen or the feeling of our clothing rubbing against our skin. When your brain receives this information it gives meaning to even the tiniest bits of that information. People with Sensory Processing Disorder have trouble keeping that information organized and responding to it appropriately. There is still very little scientific evidence as to why this happens and how many people are affected by it. Research using brain imaging is giving doctors a better understanding of what exac...

August 17, 2017

Big things have been happening here at Southern Reins! It's hard to imagine that just a year ago we had a roster of about 40 participants, and that number had doubled in just 12 months!  

We have added new horses to support our growing programs, including Bella, a draft cross mare who was saved from the New Holland auction in Pennsylvania. Bella has been amazing to train and has officially made her debut in our therapeutic riding program. She is an 8 year old draft cross who comes in at just under 15 hands -  making her the perfect size for our participants and volunteers to work with. We have also added two large warmblood geldings: Ozzie and Mickey, who are on loan from our favorite local equestrian celebrity Olympic medalist, Melanie Smith Taylor. Although both boys are right at 16 hands or taller, they are lovely . . .even for our smallest participants. And then there is Baby, the newest member of the therapy herd. She is a 19 year old 14.2 polo pony that came to us from a loca...

March 10, 2017

When training therapy horses, I use the same techniques I use with any other horse that will allow us to form a connection while still maintaining mutual respect. I find it most effective when I remember these 3 things:

ONE.  An important component in training a horse for any discipline is to give the horse the confidence it needs to express itself safely with humans. Safely means free from physical harm, not just for the human but the horse. This is the first step in helping to keep the horse mentally and emotionally feeling safe when working in training sessions - and then during equine assisted therapies and activities (EEAT). I always make sure to work toward fully acknowledging the horse and what is best for them, and that they always take away something positive from each experience. And it never hurts to try to have fun!

TWO. I always work toward a deep understanding of each horse: Their behavior, herd dynamics and body language. In selecting therapy horses, a common trait to...