soft landings

A Physical and Mental Enrichment Program for our Senior and Unsound Equines

It’s easy to pass by the older and unsound horses. People want a riding horse, a horse that is “useful” – not a “lawn ornament.” But what our horse culture so often overlooks is that these horses have a tremendous amount to offer us – they can still be our adventure buddies, our dance partners, and our companions in shared learning experiences – even if we are not riding them. And what’s more – they can enjoy and thrive on these activities!

Just like people, older and unsound horses can benefit greatly from gentle physical exercises that strengthen their core and improve their balance and coordination. Under the guidance of our trainer, Taylor Culbert, our volunteers in this program use clicker training, a positive reinforcement-based method, to partner with our horses and engage in activities and movements that will help the horses feel as comfortable as they can in the bodies they have. We call this program Soft Landings because in addition to having found a soft landing when they ended up at 13 Hands, the horses begin to land more softly with their feet as they learn to move in better balance, which reduces strain on their joints and other parts of their body.

how?

We approach our engagement with the horses with a tremendous amount of care and attention to their physical and mental limitations, and recognize that these vary from day-to-day. Sometimes, this might mean that the exercises for a particular horse involve only weight shifts, without moving the feet. Another horse might be improving their coordination with ground poles and learning to place their feet on a mat. The horse’s comfort and well-being are our highest priority, and we create carefully tailored training plans according to the needs of each individual.

Horses evolved to be problem solvers, and another part of this program is to provide mental enrichment for the horses by giving them opportunities to explore new environments, encounter new objects in ways that feel safe, learn to solve puzzles, and play any kind of game that our human and equine participants can come up with together!

Our aim is to keep our work playful, joyful, and comfortable for our equines as we celebrate them for who they are and the complex journeys that have brought them here.

why clicker training?

Our program uses clicker training because it is a force-free training method that centers the horse’s ability to consent and make choices. This is important: when we are working with older and unsound horses (or any other horse for that matter!), we want them to feel safe and confident saying no if something we ask them to do is uncomfortable for them. Also, the horses think clicker training is a great game!

 

how to get involved

Our program is open to volunteers who have taken one of our Intro to Clicker Training classes, though participation is subject to our trainer’s availability. We request that volunteers in this program commit to a regular time each week in order to maintain consistency for our horses.

If you have not taken Intro to Clicker Training, but are interested in learning more, please email the office about future course offerings at info@13handsequine.org.

meet our equine participants
equine senior program hudson valley ny
Heidi
Thoroughbred gelding senior for adoption
Midnight
Red Jewel #3
Red Jewel
adoption

Most of the equines in our Soft Landings program are available for adoption and sponsorship. Taking care of aging and unsound horses can be costly, as they often require a specialized feeding program, supplements, and medications to stay healthy and comfortable. If you are unable to adopt, we greatly appreciate your contributions to help care for these very special horses. We offer various sponsorship and donation options to best suit your budget.

Thank you for your kindness and generosity.